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.”
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):