Guard Soldier Exhibits Warrior Spirit in Everything She Does

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After her first year of college, Valerie Stearns came to the conclusion that she wanted to do more with her life.

“I realized that I had greater potential,” she says. “That’s when I decided to enlist in the Ohio Army National Guard.”

That was nine years ago.

Now serving as the executive officer of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1191st Engineer Company, First Lieutenant (1LT) Stearns has deployed to Afghanistan with a military police company, and was one of the first female Soldiers integrated into combat arms roles. She served as the first female platoon leader in the 812th Engineer Company (Sapper) and leads the 1191st Engineer Company’s search and extraction team.

1LT Stearns gets an end-of-the-year hug from her third-grade class at Fostoria Elementary School in Fostoria, Ohio.

1LT Stearns says that one of the most rewarding aspects of serving in those capacities is having a positive impact on others, which shares something in common with the civilian job she’s had for the past two years – teaching third-graders and pre-kindergarten students.

“My favorite part about being a teacher is making an impact on individual lives every day. I love developing exciting lessons that allow students to reach their full potential and providing creative resources for students to learn.”

Though she loves teaching, 1LT Stearns recently stepped away from the classroom for a full-time slot in the Army National Guard.

1LT Stearns has a competitive spirit, which is what drives her to excel in everything she does.

“It’s important to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in new ways. It’s how you become better.”

It was that love of competition that led her to compete in the Ohio Army National Guard Combatives Tournament – an annual competition that tests Soldiers’ skills and hand-to-hand combat techniques learned through the Modern Army Combatives Program, a core Soldier competency.

1LT Valerie Stearns, executive officer with the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1191st Engineer Company, stands with MG John C. Harris Jr., after she won the lightweight division championship at the 2018 Ohio Army National Guard Combatives Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.

She won last year’s lightweight division championship and is looking forward to defending her title in September.

“Competing in the Combatives Tournament is a way to build camaraderie and helps instill the warrior spirit,” she says.

With her dedicated spirit and heart for developing young minds, 1LT Stearns is stepping out of her comfort zone to grow as a Citizen-Soldier® in the Ohio National Guard.

The Army National Guard gives you the flexibility to serve part-time and close to home so you can serve your State and Nation while you pursue a college degree and a civilian career. The Guard offers education assistance and career training in more than 130 fields including infantry, aviation, intelligence, engineering, and more. Check out our job board for more information on all of these careers, and a contact a recruiter today.

From an original article by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in May 2019.

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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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