By Master Sgt. Matt Hecht, New Jersey National GuardOctober 2, 2019
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - The New Jersey National Guard's Psychological Health Program recently received its fifth team member, though instead of wearing combat boots, he has four paws! Ace is a rescue dog, and at eight months old, he's been making waves throughout the state as a therapy animal in training.
Ace can be seen sporting military gear, with a large "PET ME" patch emblazoned on the side.
"He's going to be a tool that we're able to use in order connect to Soldiers and provide emotional and therapeutic support throughout the state," said Capt. Melissa Parmenter, a Behavioral Health Officer with the New Jersey Army National Guard. "Sometimes when we're struggling with mental illness or just life stressors it's hard to get that courage to come forward and ask for some help, so Ace's role will be to help open that door."
When Parmenter was trying to name the dog, her husband said that Batman had a dog named "Ace". She immediately took to the idea, when she realized it fit the Army acronym for Ask, Care, Escort.
"A.C.E. teaches Soldiers at the lowest level, if you have a battle buddy in need, this is how to get them to the right place, and not to leave them alone until they're in the right hands," said Parmenter.
Ace has already been helping out Soldiers, providing comfort to those in need.
"Literally everybody's body posture and everything changes automatically when they see him," said Parmenter. "He's licking everybody, and everybody is trying to touch him and hug him and get kisses from him. Like the whole demeanor of wherever he walks in changes."
Parmenter hopes that Ace is going to break down barriers when it comes to mental health.
"I think Ace will help with a change of thinking that therapy has to be sitting at a desk and talking to someone," said Parmenter.
"I think it will help us get the message across that there are different modalities available and there are different ways to receive therapy that can be helpful and really beneficial."