Career Path Takes Soldier from Infantry to Medical Field to WMD Defense

Sergeant (SGT) Josh Baker grew up a Navy brat, moving around a lot. Partly because military service was a family tradition, he joined the Ohio Army National Guard at 18. This part-time branch of the service wasn’t his first choice, but his mom wasn’t keen on him becoming an active duty Marine “grunt.”

He compromised by joining the Guard’s Infantry, which is considered the Army’s backbone, the Soldiers who are the first to engage the enemy. SGT Baker could also take advantage of serving close to home and the Guard’s benefits, like money for college and health insurance.

So right after basic training and Advanced Individual Training for his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), SGT Baker enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in biology. He later transferred to Rice State to play soccer and continue his studies in the sciences, earning bachelor’s degrees in both biology and medical laboratory sciences.

When given the chance to work in a field that was more in line with his educational background, he made the jump to 68K Medical Lab Technician.

“It came with an associate’s degree, basically, and an equivalent civilian job. 

With this type of hands-on career training, and because Guard service is a part-time commitment, Soldiers in this MOS can pursue civilian careers in medical laboratories at a hospital or other medical facility.

As it often happens, in the civilian or military world, the skills you learn can lead you into other fields.

So that’s what happened for SGT Baker when he was offered a chance to work full-time with the Guard as a 74D Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist, who are called in to defend against weapons of mass destruction. The fit felt natural because of his background in science.

“We deploy stateside a lot,” he said, but not just for CBRN.

Last summer, he participated in providing security for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“I really liked being part of that historic moment of nominating Donald Trump, being part of the voting process.”

Another highlight was standing guard during home games for a national sports championship. 

“We worked the Cavs games in the playoffs, so it was just being part of that historic moment of bringing the [NBA] title back to Cleveland.”

In his capacity as a CBRN Specialist, he can be called upon by local law enforcement or public safety agencies when they suspect the presence of a hazardous material.

“If a fire department or police make entry to someone’s house and see something they don’t like, they call us to see if we can figure out what it is.” 

Just a few months ago, SGT Baker’s Unit was called out to a home in Heath, Ohio, where a homeowner found some vials filled with suspicious substances. One was a white powder, which turned out to be cornstarch, but the other was chloropicrin, which is hazardous. Nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution.

Part of SGT Baker’s job satisfaction comes from being able to help people in his home State.

“Another thing that drew me to the Guard was the community service, being able to support Ohio and people that I actually know and care about. With the overall service-driven military service, I know who I’m protecting, they’re people in my community.”

So if you’re interested in doing work that protects your community and taking advantage of great benefits like money for college, contact a recruiter today and check out our job board, which is searchable by career family, location, or keyword.

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STEM Careers in the Guard: A Spotlight on Science

This fall, On Your Guard is taking a look at STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, careers offered by the Army National Guard. These are jobs that require problem solving skills and a strong desire to figure out how things work. They are also typically high paying jobs that are in demand in the civilian workforce.

So why is that important? Because Guard service is typically a part-time commitment, many of our Soldiers make the most of their skills training and the Guard’s education benefits to build successful full-time civilian careers.

This week, we’ll take a look at Science careers.

If you’re good at analyzing complex problems and finding ways to solve them, you may be interested in one of the Army National Guard’s science careers. These can range from jobs in medicine to biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science.

First Lieutenant (1LT) Michelle Warner-Hersey, who joined the Guard after college, applied her dual degree in the science-related fields of athletic training and sports management – and a minor in coaching – to become a 74A Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Officer in the Ohio National Guard.

Chemical Units are trained to defend against weapons of mass destruction that could involve chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological agents.

1LT Warner-Hersey and her team, the 155th Chemical Battalion, are trained on how to use personal protective gear to enter a contaminated area, and how to use detection equipment that allows them to assess and understand the environment, “knowing whether we’re entering an area that is suitable for life or not suitable for life, whether it can be mitigated by our protection equipment, or we need to get back out and get something at a higher level.” 

1LT Michelle Warner-Hersey of the Ohio National Guard

1LT Michelle Warner-Hersey of the Ohio National Guard

The team’s objectives are contamination avoidance, determining what contaminants they might be dealing with, and conducting decontamination to ensure that the team is not bringing anything hazardous outside, thereby expanding the contamination area.

“The mission, in general, is to save lives, mitigate human suffering and prepare for follow on forces.”

So far, 1LT Warner-Hersey has not had to respond to any disasters.

“We learned a lot from 9/11. Luckily all of our information is kind of in the what-if world, because we haven’t had to deal the hazards of mustard gas or Agent Orange and things that used to be used,” she explains. “Even things like 9/11 when there wasn’t a specific hazard, but everyone was affected by the dust, smoke, and asbestos, those are things we could have responded to and maybe will in the future.”

Or, as she and members of her Unit like to say, “We train really hard to hope to never do our job.” 

To be able to do this kind of job, 1LT Warner-Hersey says Soldiers will have to be able to understand how chemicals, radiological material, and biological agents react. This requires an aptitude for science and math. And while 1LT Warner-Hersey always liked science, she says math was not her strong suit.

Her determination solved that problem. 

“I just studied a lot and got a lot of help, mainly because I was so interested in the science part that I didn’t have a choice but to figure out how to learn the math side.” 

A CBRN Soldier will also have to be able to make quick decisions, says 1LT Warner-Hersey. She notes that protective gear can make communication difficult because it can inhibit motor function, and masks can make it more difficult for speech to be understood.

Those obstacles, too, are overcome in training by acclimatizing the body to the protective gear.

“You really have to figure out how to handle yourself in a really stressful, fast-paced environment when you’re limited on how you function normally.”

That includes things like speaking differently to be understood through a mask and using hand and arm signals.

For more on what the equipment and a training exercise look like, check out this video, which features 1LT Warner-Hersey and her former Unit. 

Training in the CBRN field can also translate to civilian careers, especially in working for HAZMAT teams or providing HAZMAT training. 1LT Warner-Hersey says she knows of Soldiers who’ve applied their skills to work in crime labs, lab testing and drug testing on the civilian side.

So if you have the aptitude for, and an interest in, a career in science, be sure to visit our job board to check out these Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs):

74D Chemical Operations Specialist

12Y Geospatial Engineer 

68A Medical Equipment Repairer

92L Petroleum Laboratory Specialist

94H Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Maintenance Support Specialist

Guard careers in closely related fields, like Engineering, Math, and Technology might also be of interest to you. One way to narrow down your options is to contact your local recruiter.


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Sniffing Out Danger: Army National Guard’s Chemical Operations Specialists

A fully protected Chemical Operations Specialist“NBC” likely means something very different to you than it does to the National Guard’s Chemical Operations Specialists. Whereas most people would associate NBC with a television network, Chemical Operations Specialists understand it to be something deadly: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) agents that could be harmful or fatal if inhaled or contacted with exposed flesh.

These substances, often used in industrial and commercial processes, are transported by railroad, waterway, and roadway, where, as we all know, accidents happen. If they do, NBC agents could be released into the air, water, or soil.

Now imagine that our military also faces these agents in weaponized form. The nuclear arms of our enemies obviously deliver a radioactive payload that can cause untold damage. And history has shown us that our enemies are willing and able to deploy chemical agents as well as biological weapons.

The Army National Guard, because of its dual State and Federal mission, must be prepared for both of these contingencies.

Doesn’t sound like a day at the beach, does it? Of course not, but it’s what the Army National Guard’s Chemical Operations Specialists are trained and ready to handle.

A few weeks ago, we posted a story from GX Magazine about Staff Sergeant (SSG) Alex Raber who described the procedures necessary for containing a chemical spill or radiation leak. He mentioned some of the equipment used on a mission, but On Your Guard wants to take a closer look at some of the life-protecting equipment that makes it a little easier to enter a potentially harmful situation.

First there’s the vehicle, either a six-wheeled Fox M93 variant or a modified eight-wheeled Stryker. These specially outfitted vehicles are designed to go into contaminated areas while keeping the crew inside safe. While in the potentially contaminated environment, multiple sensors and devices monitor and sample the area. These are devices that can sniff out the extent of the contamination. Findings are then communicated to the commanding officer.

Those on board are able to go without special protective gear because the interior of the vehicle is kept at a positive pressure, meaning if the seal around doors and other crevices aren’t quite airtight, the air pressure will make sure the flow of air is moving from inside to outside, thus pushing potentially dangerous contaminants away. To top it off, the M93 variant is fully amphibious.

But what if Guard Soldiers do have to leave the relative safety of the vehicle? That’s where the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST), together with the M40/M42 Series Field Protective Mask, are put to use.

Protecting a Soldier’s face, eyes, and lungs is the Field Protective Mask. A silicone rubber facepiece creates a natural seal against the face to protect the Soldier’s breathing and sight functions. It also features a voice meter to facilitate communication and a drink tube to maintain proper hydration. The mask provides protection for up to 12 hours and the detachable face-mounted canister will withstand up to 15 nerve-, choking-, and blistering-agent attacks or two blood-agent attacks.

The JSLIST provides similar protection for the body against chemical, biological, radiation, and other battlefield contaminants with a specialized material that incorporates activated carbon and a woven lining that absorbs chemical agents before they can get to the Soldier within the suit. Better yet, the JSLIST features great breathability which allows perspiration to escape. Combined with molded boot coverings and gloves, the JSLIST can be worn in a contaminated environment for up to 24 hours.

And finally, these Soldiers will need the Chemical Agent Detector Kit. Mechanics have their toolbox, carpenters have their tool belt, and a certain caped crusader has his utility belt. The Chemical Agent Detector Kit is the same deal, but for the HAZMAT set.

The Chemical Agent Detector Kit provides a variety of tools to determine the existence of blood-, blister- or nerve-agents in either liquid or aerosol form. While not an alarm, Guard Soldiers use the kit to determine if and when it is safe to unmask, the effectiveness of decontamination efforts, or the extent of present contamination.

So the next time you hear a news story about an area being evacuated, a train derailing, or an overturned tanker truck, think of those intrepid Soldiers who are driving toward the spill while everyone else is on their way out of town.

Or better yet, consider joining them and serve part-time in the defense of your community, State, and our Nation.

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