All Roads Lead to Career Success with Guard Service

Austin Vogt
SGT Austin Vogt at the 1-279, 45th brigade infantry combat team NCO induction ceremony with NATO allies. The youngest inductee gets to cut the cake.

Sometimes you find yourself in a position that turns out to be completely different than where you thought you would be – it even happens in the Army National Guard.

Sergeant (SGT) Austin Vogt of the Oklahoma Army National Guard has navigated changes in direction throughout his service journey, but is focused on his destination – a successful civilian career.

For the last six years, he has served as a Food Service Specialist, primarily responsible for the preparation and service of food in field or garrison food service operations. Food service specialists must complete 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and eight weeks of Advanced Individual Training with on-the-job instructions. Part of this time is spent in the classroom, and part takes place in the field, including practice in food preparation.

SGT Vogt joined the Army National Guard because he admired military service. Both of his grandfathers served in the Army. His paternal grandfather served during war time in Korea and Vietnam. His maternal grandfather had active duty as well as Army National Guard service – ironically as a cook. He says he also was impressed by the benefits offered by the Guard, especially education benefits.

When he first joined the Army National Guard, he was offered several different positions that didn’t really appeal to his interests – Infantry, truck driver – and eventually was offered a job as a cook.

“It seemed like an easy job,” SGT Vogt says. “I like to cook, and I like to eat.”

But his MOS wasn’t exactly what he expected.

“It sounded good at the time, until I got there,” SGT Vogt says. “It was more work and less sleep than I thought.”

Due to under-staffing, there were days when he found himself working from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m., including cleanup, running all shifts – except lunch, which was in the field. There were nights when he slept for just 45 minutes.

Eventually, he realized that being a cook probably wasn’t the best position for him. He was looking toward the future and wanted to set himself up for a successful civilian career with higher pay.

Instead of the kitchen, he set his sights on an IT career. “I thought if I had IT training, I could work my way up and eventually work as a contractor,” SGT Vogt says. Now he is about to transition to a career in communications as a Signal Support Systems Specialist.

Through the Army Relearning Certification Class, he is earning coins that act as a credit. “Courses are very expensive,” SGT Vogt explains. “These classes will help me when going after jobs and will open more doors for me.” He also plans to take advantage of the GI Bill for college courses.

SGT Vogt has been working toward his new goal in his civilian life as well. After spending the last two years in environmental and construction work, he recently took a job in life insurance sales.

“My goal right now is to absorb as much information as I can, to learn about the field and get hands-on experience.”

He sees his civilian career in sales as a segue.

“In the job market, you have to be able to sell yourself. I am learning a whole new vocabulary – and words to avoid,” SGT Vogt says. “I definitely think I am heading in the right direction.”

With career opportunities in more than 130 positions, the Army National Guard can help you find your perfect fit. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more. 

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

Ohio’s First Female Infantry Officer on COVID-19 Front Lines

2LT Colleen O’Callaghan
2LT Colleen O’Callaghan, a platoon leader with the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, oversees her team at Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties in Springfield, Ohio. O’Callaghan is the Ohio National Guard’s first female Army Infantry Officer in its 232-year history. (Photo by SPC Max Elliott.)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Army National Guard’s support during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many firsts for the organization.

It marks the first time since the Blizzard of 1978 that the Army National Guard has responded to serve the State on such a large scale. The Guard’s overall COVID-19 response, known as Operation Steady Resolve, is the first time Ohio’s Army Guard, Air Guard, Naval Militia, and Military Reserve have been activated under one joint task force.

Among the hundreds of Soldiers, Airmen, and other personnel who have answered the call to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 response is one who had already achieved an historic first of her own for the organization. Second Lieutenant (2LT) Colleen O’Callaghan is the first woman in the Ohio National Guard’s 232-year history to become an Army Infantry Officer.

With the integration of women into combat arms still in its infancy – the Department of Defense began allowing them to serve in direct combat Units more than five years ago – 2LT O’Callaghan took a leap of faith to start her journey toward becoming an Infantry Officer.

Graduating the Army’s Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course (IBOLC) was an accomplishment 2LT O’Callaghan says she never envisioned when she began her career in the Ohio Army National Guard. Along with help from her recruitment team, she navigated the obstacles to pave the way for herself and other women to join the Infantry branch.

“I really wanted to take on a big challenge,” 2LT O’Callaghan says. “So, I walked into the Army National Guard recruiting office and told them I want to be an Infantry Officer. I saw it as an opportunity to reinvent myself and serve my country.”

2LT O’Callaghan earned her blue cord – a military decoration worn over the right shoulder on an Army dress uniform by all Infantry-qualified Soldiers – in October after a successful 12 weeks of IBOLC training at Fort Benning, Georgia. The installation is home to the Maneuver Center of Excellence, which also trains armor and cavalry Soldiers, as well as oversees specialty training, including the U.S. Army Ranger and Airborne schools.

After completing Officer Candidate School with a near equal number of men and women, 2LT O’Callaghan was one of only three women in her IBOLC class. Despite being the first woman in the Ohio National Guard to branch into infantry, 2LT O’Callaghan says her experience was the same as any other Soldier’s. She found her peers and cadre supportive of her decision, actively encouraging her throughout the course and treating her professionally.

“The cadre and staff there were really excited and were really understanding of the position I was in. It can be awkward being one of the only females,” says 2LT O’Callaghan. “But I ended up making some great friends and definitely had some memorable experiences.”

Colonel (COL) Matthew Woodruff, commander of the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, attended O’Callaghan’s IBOLC graduation ceremony and met with her family and course cadre.

“This (was) an historic event for the Ohio Army National Guard to have the first female Infantry Officer complete IBOLC,” COL Woodruff says. “It means a lot for the 1-148th (1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment), the 37th IBCT (the major subordinate command over the 1-148th), and the Ohio Army National Guard in paving the way for future female Soldiers, NCOs (noncommissioned officers), and officers to be in combat arms in Ohio.”

2LT O’Callaghan, of Xenia, Ohio, attended her first drill weekend in January as a platoon leader with the Ohio Army National Guard’s Company C, 1-148th, in Tiffin. Shortly thereafter, the coronavirus outbreak hit Ohio, forcing many businesses to close. It also meant a civilian job opportunity for 2LT O’Callaghan was put on hold. So, when the Ohio National Guard created a joint task force in response to Gov. Mike DeWine’s call for the Guard to provide support during the COVID-19 pandemic, it only made sense to 2LT O’Callaghan that she answer the call to volunteer.

“I had just accepted a role at a new job, but they could not start me until after the (governor’s) stay-at-home order was lifted,” 2LT O’Callaghan says. “So, I volunteered to be put on orders and help the State until I could start my new civilian role.”

2LT O’Callaghan was able to serve close to her Southwest Ohio home, at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign, and Logan Counties in Springfield. As officer-in-charge of the approximately 40 military personnel staffing the food bank, she led a joint team responsible for a variety of mission sets, including drive-thru food distribution and home deliveries across Second Harvest’s rural, tri-county coverage area.

2LT O’Callaghan says her experience as a new Officer was enhanced by support from her senior NCOs. While Infantry Officers don’t typically train to run food bank operations, she was able to use her administrative expertise from previous civilian jobs while capitalizing on the variety of skills her team members had to offer. Together, they were able to efficiently operate at the food bank and serve fellow Ohioans in need.

The public’s response in Springfield has been overwhelmingly positive.

“There were a lot of people who were just very grateful there was help available,” she says. “I would stand toward the front of drive-thru distributions to greet people as they arrived; they were always very positive and thankful we were there to help them when they needed it most.”

2LT O’Callaghan says she felt gratified to serve her friends and neighbors in such a direct way. The Army National Guard is unique in that it allows Soldiers like 2LT O’Callaghan to serve in their communities, which has helped her make the place she calls home even better.

“We genuinely want to be here. We have all volunteered and we are all serving relatively close to our homes whenever possible,” she says. “Everybody wants to help because there are so many people (who are) out of work and need assistance, and we have the ability to do it.”

2LT O’Callaghan says she wants her service as both a female Infantry Officer and a member of the Ohio Army National Guard during Operation Steady Resolve to inspire others to start their own journey and, ultimately, pursue opportunities to serve their Community, State, and Nation.

“I didn’t get here on my own, and at no point was I alone,” she says. “What I hope to do is encourage other women to take on something extremely challenging and take the leap.”

The Army National Guard offers positions in more than 130 career fields, so you can serve your community in a way that’s right for you. Opportunities include supply and logistics, admin and relations, transport, and more. Check out the job board for more information on available careers, and contact a local recruiter to learn more. 

From an original article by 1LT Kevin Livingston, Ohio National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil on July 21, 2020.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

Texas Army National Guard Hosts Virtual Career Fair

Image of Texas Army National Guard Virtual Career Fair
Your career with the Texas Army National Guard is a click away.

Just like most events during this pandemic, the Texas Army National Guard’s recruitment fair is going virtual. Visit our virtual career fair on Thursday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central). With a click from your device you will have the opportunity to speak with recruiters, watch videos, and participate in group chats. Don’t wait! Reserve your spot now!

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter