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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Math on the ASVAB

Four individuals taking a testSince On Your Guard has been talking about STEM careers all summer, with mathematics the focus for September, we thought we’d dedicate this week’s post to math on the ASVAB.

ASVAB stands for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and all National Guard applicants take the test to help figure out which military occupational specialties best match their academic strengths.

So … are you a whiz with numbers or do your palms turn sweaty at the mere sight of a word problem?

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how you answer that question because, either way, it’s a good idea to do some advanced prep before you take the test.

First, learn what math concepts are included on the test (keep reading for that). And second, practice (you can find tons of free sample problems online or consider purchasing one of the many test prep books on the market).

What’s on the Test?

There are two math sections on the ASVAB: Arithmetic Reasoning and Mathematics Knowledge.

Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) – All the questions on this subtest are word problems. If you take the computer-based test, you will be asked to solve 16 word problems in 39 minutes. If you go to a location and take the pencil and paper version, you will be asked to solve 30 word problems in 36 minutes.

The math concepts being tested in the AR section include:

  • Basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication)
  • Speed/time/distance calculations
  • Percentages
  • Ratio and proportion
  • Interest (simple and compound)
  • Numbers (whole, real, fractions, decimals, and imaginary)

If you are still in high school (or are a recent grad), you’re probably pretty familiar with word problems by now, thanks to the new Common Core curriculum. If not, here are a few tips from McGraw Hill for tackling a word problem:

  • Read the problem all the way to the end before starting any calculations.
  • Look for key words (more than, reduced by, product, divided into equal groups) to learn what mathematical operation(s) to use.
  • List the important information given in the problem and eliminate the unnecessary details that do not help you solve it.
  • Draw pictures and graphics if that helps you to understand what’s being asked.
  • Create an equation from the info you’ve pulled and solve the problem.

Mathematics Knowledge (MK) – This subtest is designed to evaluate your grasp of high school math. If you take the computer-based test, you will have to solve 16 questions in 18 minutes. If you go to a location and take the pencil and paper version, you will solve 25 questions in 24 minutes. Since that’s about a problem per minute, you’ll need to be both accurate and quick.

The math concepts being tested in the MK section are more advanced than the AR section and include:

  • Algebraic equations
  • Geometry concepts, like circumference, angles and area
  • Adding/subtracting fractions with different denominators
  • Prime numbers
  • Factoring
  • Reciprocals
  • Factorials
  • Exponents

That’s it. From all of us at On Your Guard … practice hard and good luck!

P.S. During study breaks, you can learn more about math careers in the Army National Guard  by checking out our STEM Career Guide, visiting our jobs board, and contacting a recruiter.

 

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STEM in the Guard: A Focus on Math

This summer, during the first week of every month, we’ve been taking a closer look at Army National Guard careers in each of the four STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. Why? Because these jobs are in demand, both in the Guard and in the civilian workforce. Candidates with expertise in these fields are needed right now and well into the foreseeable future. In fact, the U.S. Department of Commerce predicts that STEM opportunities will increase by 17 percent over the next three years.

We conclude this summer series today, with Part 4 … mathematics.

STEM_MathematicsDo you like to crunch numbers? Are you masterful at solving puzzles, seeing patterns, and understanding formulas? Are you always on the move and searching for a new challenge?

If so, a career in mathematics may be a smart choice for your future. Selecting one of the Guard’s many math-oriented military occupational specialties (MOS) would also be a smart choice, for three important reasons:

  • The skills you learn in the Guard will give you a head start on qualifying for civilian positions like market research, financial management, air traffic control, operations research, statistical analysis, intelligence, electronics, and more.
  • As with most Guard careers, your service is part-time, so you can earn a degree and/or work in that civilian job at the same time.
  • Finally, the Guard offers money for college and other great benefits like healthcare and life insurance.

Just as important, the National Guard’s math specialists are charged with vital missions. Some manage air traffic control services. Others use mathematical models and analytical techniques to solve complex problems. And then there are those who break codes and use statistics to predict situations and possible outcomes.

The following are just a few of the Guard’s mathematics positions. Click the links to view nationwide job openings and read a more detailed description for each MOS.

13D Field Artillery Technical Data System Specialist – Operates the tactical data systems that launch rockets; determines target locations using computers and/or manual calculations

15Q Air Traffic Control Operator – Provides the precision-oriented takeoff and landing instructions needed to ensure flawless, safe aircraft operations

35N Signals Intelligence Analyst – Intercepts and analyzes foreign communications, as well as relays intelligence reports regarding combat, strategic, and tactical intelligence information

36B Financial Management Technician – Performs a wide array of budgeting, disbursing, and accounting duties, including computing payroll, auditing financial records, and preparing payments for various types of transactions

If you aren’t sure which of these math-based career paths is best for you, don’t worry. One way to narrow it all down is to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. All Guard applicants take the ASVAB to help align their strengths with the military occupational specialties that best capitalize on those skills.

To learn more about STEM careers in the National Guard, check out our STEM Career Guide, visit our jobs board, and contact a recruiter today.

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