JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –Over 200 High school students from over 40 schools across Texas connected with U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, over Zoom for a Virtual Career Showcase, December 6, 2021.
The recruiting event, titled “Endless Possibilities,” was the first of its kind. The showcase was hosted by Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE Commanding General; Joseph Bray, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army-Texas (South); and Col. LaTonya Jordan, Commander, 5th Recruiting Brigade.
Before COVID, MEDCoE collaborated with Bray or recruiters to host several school tours and in-person information events. Transitioning to a virtual event was part of the MEDCoE’s COVID-19 response and intended to be a safe way to connect interested students with the many ways they can find fulfilling full or part-time careers in the Army or Army Reserves.
During the event, attendees learned that Army Medicine has career opportunities for all types of health care providers: physicians, dentists, veterinarians, combat medics, respiratory specialists, nurses and many more, within 90 different specialties. For college or postgraduate students, Army Medicine offers incentive programs, from monthly stipends for medical residents and medical and dental students to educational loan repayment, special pay and recruiting bonuses. The Army also has more than 130 full-time enlisted career options straight out of high school.
“We are made up of a diverse group of people who have found purpose and passion through a career in the military,” LeMaster said, wanting to highlight Soldiers, the Army’s most precious resource, during the showcase. “We are excited to tell you all about it.”
Presenters included six Soldiers assigned to the MEDCoE in varying specialties: Maj. Eric Doe, 67J Medical Evacuation Pilot; Staff Sgt. Kashina Cavender, 68W Combat Medic; Sgt. 1st Class Dylan Browning, 68T Animal Care Specialist; Sgt. 1st Class Sean Skaggs, 68C Nursing Specialist; Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Coleman, 68E Dental Specialist; and Staff Sgt. Andrew Ferguson, 68D Operating Room Specialist. Most presenters took advantage of the Zoom environment by sharing their stories of service with the audience of over 100 virtual attendees from remote locations, such as dental, veterinary and operating room training areas and an outdoor helicopter display.
“I am honored to have been part of an event with such a wide reach of potential Future Soldiers,” Skaggs said after his two-minute presentation on how his career as a licensed practical nurse in the Army has benefited him and his Family. “Even if my short speech helped one person in their desire to join Army Medicine, it would be worth it.”
Retired Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Leon Johnson, the Senior Army Instructor at Emmett J. Conrad High School, hosted a watch party for 35 of his Junior Reserve Officer Training Course, or JROTC, students. One of the first people to sign up for the event, he said his students especially enjoyed the first-hand perspectives from each of the Soldiers who shared their personal experiences in the Army. “They also really loved the fact that the Army will help pay for their college,” he said. Soldiers earn degrees for free while serving, with up to $4,000 in tuition assistance each year for college courses or certifications.
While Johnson’s favorite part of the event was also the live Soldier testimonials, he thought the entire event was very informative for his students. “It provided a real and genuine side to Army Medicine,” Johnson said. “The briefers showed strength, leadership, cultural diversity, and gender equity.”
He said that one of his cadets, a female high school senior who was considering a career in the Army really benefitted from hearing Cavender’s story of service and how she and her sister, who is also a combat medic, have enjoyed their careers in Army Medicine’s largest specialty. “She said this event helped confirm her decision to join the Army and become a Combat Medic and eventually a Nurse,” Johnson explained.
Skaggs doesn’t expect everyone who attended the event to become a nurse, or even one of the other five specialties highlighted during the showcase. While he said he would love to see many of them select Army Medicine, he also thinks new recruits can’t go wrong with any of the other hundreds of job specialties the Army has to offer.
He says he will consider the event a success if students understand how broad their job options are in the Army. “Overall, I hope the students realize that the Army is a great opportunity to get working in the career field of their choice with experiences unlike anything else in the civilian sector,” Skaggs concluded.
Bray, who originally proposed the idea of highlighting MEDCoE Soldiers during a virtual showcase to LeMaster in September, thanked him, his staff, the presenters, and the recruiters for conducting the worthwhile event. He said he hopes the showcase will be a recurring event, at least annually, and will grow in size and attendance.
“I think this was very valuable and I think we are going to take this to higher levels in the future,” Bray said.