State Spotlight: South Carolina

Guard Staff Sergeant Saves Lives as a Soldier and a Civilian

SSG Jessica Thibeau, with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 59th Aviation Troop Command, observes from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during efforts to fight South Carolina wildfires in November 2016. Photo by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Soldiers join the military for many reasons, including family tradition, stories they’ve seen in the media, or to make their childhood dreams come true.

For South Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. (SSG) Jessica Thibeau, exposure to the military came from all over – a family filled with combat veterans, a community full of Vietnam veterans, and a television show.

“No laughing, but when I was 4 years old I loved a show called ‘Emergency.’ It was based on the first paramedics in the U.S. out in Los Angeles County, California,” said SSG Thibeau.

“That was in 1974,” she added. “There were not any female firefighters back then. My mom, however, never told me that. She always told me I could be whatever I wanted. I actually got a ton of Tonka fire trucks and ambulances that year for Christmas because that is all I wanted. Becoming a combat medic was just a natural progression.”

After having served on active duty and 20 years as a civilian paramedic, in 2005, SSG Thibeau decided to join the Army National Guard, and offer her combined civilian-military experience in trauma response and emergency/critical care to the Guard, which has a dual mission of serving the Nation and responding to State emergencies like floods and fires.

Initially, SSG Thibeau became a combat medic (68W Healthcare Specialist) with the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion. Next, she joined a Medevac unit with Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, also in Maine. She later transferred to the South Carolina Army National Guard as a critical care flight paramedic with the 59th Aviation Troop Command.

Throughout her 18 years of military service, SSG Thibeau has saved numerous lives, including two while serving on the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. 

SSG Thibeau also flew numerous fire containment missions during the Pinnacle Mountain wildfires in Northwestern South Carolina in November 2016, and she has saved countless lives as a paramedic. As a civilian and a Soldier, she exemplifies positivity in her community and serves with dedication and proficiency in the military.

“I do love walking in on someone’s absolute worst day and making it a little, if not a lot, better,” SSG Thibeau said. “This job gives you a positive outlet to get that adrenaline rush while having a positive impact on others.”

“Whether it is saving their home, their loved one having a heart attack, or bringing another Soldier home from combat to their family, there is no greater feeling in the world to me than knowing you made a difference.”

So if you’d like to make a difference in your community, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to search opportunities in fields like medicine, administration, or infantry. Your part-time service comes with many benefits like money for college or vocational school and low-cost health and life insurance. Contact your local recruiter to learn more.

From an original story by Army SSG Roberto Di Giovine, 59th Aviation Troop Command, which originally appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in April 2017.

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State Spotlight: New York

Deployments Make Army Guard Doctor a Better Hometown Physician

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Ebola and malaria aren’t diseases doctors working in the hometown of the Baseball Hall of Fame normally expect to encounter.

But Dr. William LeCates, a kidney specialist and medical director of Bassett Healthcare Center has experience with both diseases, as well as battlefield medicine, as a result of his “other” career as Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) William LeCates, a New York Army National Guard doctor.

His military career, said LTC LeCates, has only served to make him a better physician overall.

LTC LeCates joined the New York Army Guard in 2009, putting his knowledge and skills to work for American and allied military personnel.

He said he always had an interest in serving in the military, but medical school, establishing a medical practice, and having three kids along the way meant putting off that aspiration.

Finally, with his family settled in Cooperstown, his practice established, and the realization that at age 39, he needed to join the military now or never, he decided to seek a commission in the Army Medical Corps.

“The Guard was a perfect fit for me,” he said. “I knew we could stay in our home, Debbie (his wife) and my kids could be secure and fixed in our schools and the community, and I could carry out my military duties.”

LTC LeCates serves as a member of the New York Guard’s Medical Command, or MEDCOM. He conducts medical readiness assessments at Camp Smith Training Site and Fort Drum, and treats Soldiers during training periods.

His service has also meant deploying overseas, including twice to Afghanistan and once to Liberia.

His first deployment in 2010 was with the Iowa Army National Guard’s 334th Brigade Support Battalion at Camp Blackhorse, Afghanistan, as an augmentee to the battalion’s medical company.

LTC William LeCates, shown on deployment in Liberia, serves as a doctor in the New York Army National Guard and as a kidney specialist in private practice. He said that his service in the Army Guard has given him a greater breadth of medical knowledge benefiting both his civilian and military patients.

LTC William LeCates, shown on deployment in Liberia, serves as a doctor in the New York Army National Guard and as a kidney specialist in private practice. He said that his service in the Army Guard has given him a greater breadth of medical knowledge benefiting both his civilian and military patients.

LTC LeCates worked in a barebones medical clinic – “Role 1” in military parlance – where the job was to provide basic primary care, emergency treatment for injuries and wounds, and stabilize patients so they could be transported to more sophisticated treatment facilities.

His second three-month deployment, the standard for reserve component doctors, was in New Kabul Compound, an American military facility in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital city, in 2013.

This time he worked at a major U.S. forces headquarters as one of the physicians for 800 American personnel. The compound was also adjacent to an Afghan military hospital, where he worked with Afghan medical personnel to treat casualties.

LTC LeCates’ most recent deployment was a six-month non-combat mission to the West African country of Liberia, where he had an opportunity to see medical care at both the individual and large-scale levels, as the country dealt with the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak.

“The country is small enough, and the cities are close enough, that in a single day I could be in a Liberian clinic looking at young kids that are getting malaria, and in the evening I could be working at the ministry of health and helping to understand their Ebola response efforts.”

Overall, his military experience has been a tremendous benefit to his work as a doctor back home in Cooperstown, a place he chose for his career because he gets to perform complicated, challenging medicine in a small-town setting, LTC LeCates said.

“I think military leadership training is the best type of leadership training available,” he said. “I am fortunate in my civilian job to have an opportunity for a medical administrative role here at the hospital, and that [military] training in mentoring and motivating helps.”

The military medical system is also very effective at using lessons learned, and making on-the-spot improvements in clinical care, he added.

“The civilian sector is slower at those changes. It has given me a chance to look at how a big system can bring about changes to make improvements,” LTC LeCates said, adding that military doctors have pioneered new trauma care techniques on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, and knowing those skills is always useful.

“The Army is very good at training its deploying doctors to understand the basics of point-of-injury care, and how to keep the Soldier safe,” he said.

So, if you have an interest in the medical field and serving in the Army National Guard, you don’t have to wait until you’re done with medical school to join. Visit our job board to learn more about these Guard careers:

68W Health Care Specialist

68X Mental Health Specialist

68P Radiology Specialist

68E Dental Specialist

68S Preventive Medicine Specialist

68G Patient Administration Specialist

68K Medical Laboratory Specialist

68J Medical Logistics Specialist

Experienced nurses, doctors, and veterinarians also are needed. Contact your local recruiter to learn more about any questions you have.

From an original article by Eric Durr, New York National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in March 2017.

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Infantry Officer Reaps the Rewards of Service in Confidence, Leadership, and Camaraderie

While other kids were watching Cartoon Network, a young Travis Waller was watching the History channel. That’s partly his inspiration for wanting to join the military, but he also considers his part-time service in the Louisiana Army National Guard’s Infantry a tribute to his ancestors whose lives lacked today’s modern conveniences.

“We drive in our air-conditioned, climate-controlled boxes to work, we sit in our climate-controlled boxes at work, and there’s just nothing challenging,” says 1st Lieutenant (1LT) Waller. “I have this idea that our ancestors were the best of the best because they made it, and they got me here, so I kind of owe it to them to keep myself in the best of the best.”

In other words, he likes a challenge, and while he hasn’t deployed for a combat mission as yet, 1LT Waller is back from a recent weeklong stateside activation, helping to provide traffic control and security in New Orleans after tornadoes hit southeastern Louisiana in early February. 

“I’m really thankful that I’m able to help protect and serve our communities,” he says. “It’s something I’m really proud of.”

1LT Waller attended the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while in college. It is an elective that allows students to earn a commission straight out of college as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard.

1LT Travis Waller

Despite living in Florida at the time, he joined the Louisiana Guard almost three years ago because the State had an opening for the military occupational specialty (MOS) he wanted – 11A Infantry Officer.

When he’s not serving in his Unit, 1LT Waller works in the private sector as a client support specialist at a company that processes payments to local governments. He’s also pursuing a master’s degree in business management that’s going to cost him roughly $2,500 out-of-pocket, thanks to the Guard’s tuition assistance.

“It’s been a lifesaver,” he says. “It’s crazy that I can get a master’s degree for $2,500.”

With a graduate degree in hand, he plans to help manage the business side of his wife’s photography business and move up the ladder in both of his careers.

“I want to advance myself in my civilian career, get myself into some sort of management position, and then on the military side, I hope it helps me move up the ranks on that end, too.”

As an officer, 1LT Waller enjoys being able to help develop Soldiers.

“I’m planning on staying for as long as they’ll keep me – 20 years or more. It really brings balance to my life.”

It’s also built up his confidence.

“I believe in myself, and I know I’m able to complete whatever task is given to me.”

His advice to anyone considering joining the Guard is “jump all in, be committed to it, and you’ll reap serious benefits from it, not just tangible benefits.”

The intangible benefits include leadership training, which 1LT Waller describes as second to none, plus the camaraderie that develops between Soldiers.

“I’ve been in fraternities, I’ve been in sports teams. Nothing compares to the sense of belonging that you find in the military.”

So, if you’re looking to join this team, one of the choices you’ll make is what career path to pursue. The Guard offers more than 150 choices in fields like artillery, medicine, engineering, and more. For more information, visit our job board and contact your local recruiter for personalized advice. 

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