Guard Officer Keeps Soldiers, Citizens Healthy as Physician Assistant

As a youngster, John Price wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer.

“I took every hard class that you could take in school. All the calculus, high-level sciences, everything I could, just so I could keep my options open.”

He was pre-med in college, but decided to leave school and join the Army because the education he would need to achieve his career goals “was just way too expensive and I couldn’t afford it.”

So after serving in Korea as a Korean linguist in military intelligence, Price went back to school, went to ROTC to become an officer, and joined the Army National Guard as an intelligence officer. That is, until he heard about a different opportunity that lined up a little more closely with one of his childhood dreams – a military school for physician assistants that would be paid for through the Guard.

In the mid-1990s, all branches of the U.S. military consolidated their training for physician assistants into one program, the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP), located at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas. A physician assistant (PA) is a nationally certified and state licensed medical professional who can diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medicine.

Now a Major in the Ohio Army National Guard, Price has been a 65D Physician Assistant for the last 9 years, where he has worked in his State’s Medical Detachment, where “the goal is to get everyone healthy and medically fit, medically ready to do their jobs,” and now as a full-time active duty Guardsman for a Civil Support Team (CST) “where we are first responders for large-scale disasters.”

MAJ Price (left) and his Civil Support Team practice their skills regularly.

MAJ Price (left) and his Civil Support Team practice their skills regularly.

The CST’s role is to protect citizens from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats. And while the Unit is considered non-deployable for an overseas mission, it is hardly stationary.

“We can be called up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Based in Columbus, the Unit can be activated for sporting events, where MAJ Price has treated people for things like heat exhaustion, and high-profile events like the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland last year.

Plus, about one week a month, MAJ Price and the rest of his Unit will train in another city in Ohio, or usually in a nearby State, to practice different scenarios in dealing with CBRNE threats. They also work closely with police and fire departments to foster good working relationships.

“We get to do our job every day,” he says. We get to not only do it, but improve upon it. Then we get to critique it, and test each other on it so we’re constantly getting better.”

MAJ Price says he loves his choice of occupation.

“I think PAs have the absolute best job in the world. It’s one of the top 10 professions that you can have in America right now.”

He says one of the benefits of the job is its versatility.

“There are so many opportunities. You can go into any area of medicine. You’re not stuck. You don’t get specialized in one area.”

In fact, on top of his full-time job with the Guard, MAJ Price works at least one day a week in emergency medicine and urgent care in the civilian world.

And while some employers might frown upon moonlighting, the Guard is supportive of MAJ Price’s desire to take advantage of career development opportunities outside the military.

“It’s actually something that they want me to do, to make sure that I’m getting other skills, just like a civilian clinical person would.”

He brings those skills back to his small 22-person Unit, which has been together a long time.

“That’s one of the great things about the military, how we take care of each other, and the camaraderie on a small mission team that works together all the time, doing different scenarios. You can’t beat it.”

So if you’d like to be part of a team that’s dedicated to service, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers career training in fields like medicine, intelligence, transportation and infantry. Check out our job board for details on each career – there are more than 150 of them – and reach out to your local recruiter to answer any questions you might have.  

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From Soldier to Citizen

An Iraqi Translator becomes a Guardsman and an American

SGT Abbas Mousa outside Joint Force Headquarters, District of Columbia National Guard

The official looking piece of paper that came in the mail wasn’t what Abbas Mousa thought it was. The Baghdad, Iraq, native thought he was being told to report for duty to help his new country. Instead, it was his U.S. Selective Service registration card.

Even though it was a mix-up, Mousa remembered the excitement he felt to be asked to serve the U.S. military again. It was because of his service as a translator for American troops in Iraq that he was able to immigrate in 2009 to Wisconsin, where he was working as a team leader at a warehouse for an Internet retailer.

He found that he missed military life and the camaraderie that comes with it.

“Living on a base for almost three years, the first American culture I learned was the military culture. I learned to love America before I’d seen America,” he says. “You bonded with these Soldiers on a personal level. They’re your friends, they’re your buddies.”

So after talking with military friends, Mousa decided to join the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He could serve close to home, near his family, and, because Guard service is part-time, he could still have a civilian career and get a master’s degree.

“Plus, I really felt like I would want to do something for my State, for my city, because the fact that I escaped the city that I love, Baghdad, kept haunting me,” he says. “I didn’t stay and defend my city, but I had no choice. There’s no organization or even a military that I trusted that I could join. Even the Iraqi military was corrupt.”

Not that working for the American military, which had occupied Iraq since 2003, sounded like a great option to him, either, back in 2006.

After graduating from college, Mousa worked for a construction company that eventually asked him to run a project on a U.S. Army base near Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, which was considered a safe area. It was either that or move back to Baghdad, which was dangerous, he said.

He was also wary of American Soldiers.

“I’d heard bad things about the U.S. military, especially after the Abu Ghraib [prison] scandal happened.”

But ultimately, he decided not to judge the American military as a whole based on the actions of a few. He accepted the job, and decided to trust what he saw with his own eyes rather than what he heard in the media.

He liked what he saw, and the Soldiers on base liked what they saw in Mousa, because once his project was complete, he was asked to become a translator for the military. He served in that capacity on the base for the next 2 1/2 years. He was also able to get his sister a job as a translator on base, which is what laid the groundwork for both of them to settle in Wisconsin.

Mousa’s sister and a Captain in the Wisconsin Army National Guard fell in love and got married on base, and, by coincidence, Mousa had a brother and sister who were already living in Wisconsin as refugees.

Because of their service to America, Mousa, his sister, and their family would always be targets for terrorists if they stayed in Iraq. They were able to obtain Special Immigrant Visas, which were set up by Congress for Iraqi and Afghani translators to immigrate to the United States.

And while he had fond memories of his homeland, Mousa said he didn’t think twice about leaving it.

“My mom always said the country where you have a home and a family – that is your country, that is your home.”

After joining the Wisconsin Guard in 2011, where Mousa worked as an 89B Ammunition Specialist and a 92A Automated Logistical Specialist, he was able to become a U.S. citizen.

After he finished his master’s degree in economics he decided to move to the Nation’s capital for a job as an economist in the Department of Commerce, and transfer to the Washington, D.C., Guard, where he is a Sergeant.

Washington appealed to him, in part, because it has an active storytelling community. In fact, you can hear SGT Mousa tell his story of living in and fleeing Baghdad, complete with his near misses with a car bomb and a kidnapping, on The Moth.

In his new city, SGT Mousa has been activated for three Guard missions, including helping with crowd management for two events on the same weekend in January – the Presidential Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington – where the politically opposite audiences were enthusiastic and expressed their gratitude for the Guard’s presence.

“I met a happy crowd from two different parties with way different views on things,” he says. “I was happy both days.”

SGT Mousa says one of the benefits of serving in the Guard is being able to take pride in helping the community.

“I felt weak so many times in Iraq,” he says. “I will know what to do if my State ever needs me, and I know we’re probably far away from any collapse like what other countries are facing, but it’s good to know that you’re ready whenever you’re needed.”

So if you’re interested in stepping up to serve your community and your country, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers training in more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to learn more, and for personalized assistance, contact your local recruiter

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STEM Careers in the Guard: A Spotlight on Math

On Your Guard is wrapping up its look at STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, careers offered by the Army National Guard. These jobs require problem solving skills and the ability to think critically. They are also typically high paying careers that are in demand in the civilian workforce.

Here’s why that last point is so important: the vast majority of Guard Soldiers serve part-time. As a result, many Soldiers capitalize on their skills training and the Guard’s education benefits to go to college and build successful full-time civilian careers.

This week, we’ll take a look at Math careers, which cover jobs in the military intelligence arena.

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Anthony Goindoo started his military career in the active duty Army as a 35P Cryptologic Linguist. He has since transitioned to 35N Signals Intelligence Analyst Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), but can do either job because the two are so closely related. In fact, he says, the only difference between the two intelligence jobs is that 35P involves the language element.

In both jobs, Soldiers use databases to acquire information, he says. 

“They analyze that information and put it in an easy-to-present packet to provide to, essentially our customers – which are brigade and battalion-level staff.”

In a deployment situation, SSG Goindoo explains, all the different intelligence sections, such as human, imagery and signals intelligence, come together and give what’s called an intel summary. With that, he says, “You have generally a complete picture of certain situations.”

After 5 years in the Army, including a deployment to Iraq, SSG Goindoo decided to transition to part-time military service in the Florida Army National Guard to start a civilian career. Plus, he could live at home in Florida and be with his family, and still be able to deploy should the need arise.

SSG Anthony Goindoo, Florida Army National Guard

SSG Anthony Goindoo, Florida Army National Guard

“I was ready to leave active duty, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up the uniform. It becomes a part of your life,” he says. “While I sometimes miss active duty camaraderie, at least once a month I can get that camaraderie back.”

So once a month, on his Guard drill weekends, SSG Goindoo is not perfecting his intelligence skills because it would require the use of a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), which is an enclosed area where classified materials can be handled in a secured environment. Also, his MOS duties cannot be carried out in the United States. Intelligence gathering is strictly limited to deployment operations overseas, he says.

So instead, SSG Goindoo focuses on things like basic Soldier skills and professional development as a non-commissioned officer.

Those skills have helped him in his civilian career as a police officer for the City of West Palm Beach.

“The general skills that the Army puts in a Soldier – discipline, hard work, the never give up attitude, that applies to law enforcement every single day.” Plus, he says, “Having the intelligence background, having my degree, having my clearance, those things all paid off.”

He’s hoping to move into an intelligence unit within his police department so he can apply his MOS training into his law enforcement career by analyzing data — looking at where and at what times certain crimes are happening to create a larger picture.

For anyone who’s considering the 35P or 35N MOS, SSG Goindoo recommends that Soldiers have a strong command of the English language because they will need to be able to articulate themselves verbally and in writing.

“You need to be able to put your thoughts down on paper because you need to present your ideas to someone who doesn’t know your capabilities. You need to express yourself clearly and be confident about it because you’re going to be standing in front of somebody who is significantly more ranked than you.”

That scenario can be particularly nerve-wracking, Goindoo says, because a general or a colonel may not have as high of a security clearance as the private or specialist who’s providing the intelligence report. Situations can occur where the analyst is not able to share certain information with a higher ranking official.

SSG Goindoo cautions that a lot of an intelligence analyst’s time will be spent in a SCIF rather than out in the field.

“This is a critical thinking job, and a lot of peoples’ lives and their well-being depends on how well you can interpret the information that you’re getting.”

And being good at the job can lead to good paying jobs in the civilian and government sectors.

“As an analyst, the job opportunities are endless,” SSG Goindoo says. “Your job is very much in high demand.”

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

15Q Air Traffic Controller

13D Field Artillery Automated Data Systems Analyst

Guard careers in closely related fields, like Engineering, Science, 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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