By 1st Lt. Grace Harrison
807th Medical Command (Deployment Support)
Maj. Stephanie Wire immigrated to the United States from Munich, Germany, in 1996, and became a U.S. citizen three weeks before the September 11th attacks. Now, Wire is coming up on her 20-year anniversary serving in the U.S. Military. Over the course of her career, Wire has served as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Illinois Army National Guard and now in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Veterinary Officer for the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support).
Wire said, “Initially, I joined the military to pay for higher education. Throughout the years, I have continued to serve because I love what I do. It is not easy to spend time away from home, but I know that I am providing a better life for my son.”
Wire began her military career in 1997 as a Food Service Specialist (92G) in the Illinois Army National Guard. She later changed her occupation to a Chemical Equipment Repairer (91J), and then decided to further challenge herself by attending veterinary school.
Half-way through veterinary school, her enlistment was up and Wire thought her time in the military was done as school was taking up all of her time. However, in 2008, her old unit deployed and many of her friends were on the deployment.
“Talking to them, I felt that something was missing from my life and I made the decision to accept a direct commission into the Army Reserve Veterinary Corps as a Field Veterinary Officer (64A)," said Wire.
While the National Guard had helped Wire pay for her undergraduate degree, she still had about $150,000 of student loan debt from veterinary school. The Reserve offers a loan repayment program for health service professionals that enabled Wire to pay off all of her loans from veterinary school in less than 10 years.
“Veterinary students graduate with huge debts these days, and not having that consistent worry is a big relief,” Wire reflected. “It really wasn’t about the incentives, though. I missed working with Soldiers and the camaraderie I had experienced as a Non-Commissioned Officer in the National Guard.”
In her current role, Wire is a Veterinary Preventative Veterinary Medicine Officer.
“That is a mouth-full, but basically, I am a board-certified specialist in veterinary preventive medicine, which includes infectious diseases, toxicology, environmental health, food safety/defense and epidemiology,” said Wire.
In this occupation, Wire does everything from planning and executing veterinary stability operations for humanitarian missions to clinical medicine and performing surgery to food safety tasks such as Food and Water Risk Assessments and Sanitary Audits.
“I love the variety of opportunities presented in the Army Reserve, and especially the Veterinary Corps," added Wire. "I may be biased, but I truly believe I have the best job in the Army: I got to go on a deployment to the Horn of Africa with a Civil Affairs unit, I got to do Overseas Deployment Training in locations such as England, Italy, and Germany. I get to hone my Soldier tasks during missions such as WAREX and CSTX, and get to do outreach in places like non-for-profit large and small animal shelters.”
Through all of these experiences in her Army career, Wire felt motivated to become board certified in veterinary preventative medicine and focus her civilian career in this area as well.
“In my civilian life, I work as the USDA Epidemiology Officer in Illinois. After spending the majority of my career in mixed animal private practice… I feel very lucky to be working for two government organizations that complement each other in their mission to protect our people and agriculture," said Wire.
Wire explained that due to her Army position and experiences, she was able to realize that she loved the “whole herd” approach to veterinary medicine, which focuses on disease surveillance and outbreak mitigation rather than focusing on the individual animal. While serving in the U.S. Army Reserve has helped Wire hone this approach into her civilian career, her passion and favorite aspect of serving is being able to lead, mentor, and teach young and new Soldiers.
"For me, it is all about serving my fellow Soldiers…I try to lead by example and never ask anything of my Soldiers I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself,” Wire said. “We live in a great country that offers a lot of opportunities to people of all different backgrounds. We are not perfect, but we strive to be better each day, and I just want to do my little part to contribute to that effort.”
Reflecting on her career in the U.S. Army Reserve, Wire said: “It is an honor and a privilege. I have made life-long friends as a Soldier and Federal Veterinarian, and in the end, that is really what matters the most.”