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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Planning Pays off for Colorado Army Guard’s First Female Infantry Officer

Second Lieutenant (2LT) Wednesday Nelson is big on having a plan.

In fact, her advice for anyone who’s joining the Army National Guard like she did is to plan ahead, because it can be challenging to finish Guard training, line up a civilian job, and be able to take time off from that job for annual training.

So far, her ability to strategize is paying off.

2LT Nelson joined the Guard in 2014, finishing out her junior and senior years at Arizona State University in the Reserve Officers’ Training Program (ROTC), where she drilled with a National Guard unit and ROTC at the same time in the Simultaneous Membership Program. ROTC is a college elective that allows students to earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the National Guard straight out of college.

2LT Nelson had considered joining active duty components of the military, but the criminal justice major also knew she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. Joining the Guard, where military service is a part-time commitment, was a way to do both.

“Not only would I get amazing training out of being in the Guard, but also, it would teach me time management, teamwork, and a lot of things I don’t think I could have gotten with just being a college student.”

There was also a financial benefit. 2LT Nelson earned a full-time Guard scholarship that paid for her last two years of college in exchange for her service.

By the time she was getting ready to receive her commission, the restrictions barring women from combat roles had been lifted, and 2LT Nelson commissioned as the first female 11A Infantry Officer in Colorado.

2LT Wednesday Nelson at her commissioning ceremony.

2LT Wednesday Nelson at her commissioning ceremony.

That part hadn’t been planned in advance, but it was lucky timing, she says. As the first woman in her State to serve as an infantry officer, “It was important to me to set a good standard for people to follow. I wanted to do the best that I could, and show that it wasn’t a mistake to have integration in the combat arm branches, infantry and armor.”

She chose infantry because of the challenge.

Of the four others in her class who chose to commission infantry, “all of the guys were studs, they were all pretty much the top of the class, very motivated and very dedicated, and they gave me an idea of what the branch was going to be like. I wanted to be competing with the best.”

Although 2LT Nelson was offered a position as an infantry officer in Arizona, she chose to join the Colorado Army National Guard and relocate there because it’s geographically halfway between where each of her parents lives, plus the Denver Police Department was her No. 1 choice for an employer. After she decided to move, she was accepted to the Denver Police Academy, where she starts next month.

In the meantime, as an infantry officer, her job is to train Soldiers who serve as the main land combat force in the military. She also hopes to be a role model for other women.

Her advice for women going into combat-related jobs, because integration is still new, also goes back to having a plan.

“You have to carry your own weight, plus more. You have to go into this prepared,” she says. “There are people who don’t want you there. There are people who do want you there. But regardless, you have to be consistent. You have to train up for it.”

So if you’re interested in training up to be part of the Army National Guard, one of the decisions you’ll make as you plan your future is what to choose for your Military Occupation Specialty (MOS). The Guard offers more than 150 options in fields like mechanics and maintenance, administration, intelligence, transportation and infantry or another combat specialty.

Explore careers on our job board, and for personalized assistance, contact a recruiter today, who can also explain benefits like tuition assistance and the GI Bill.

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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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