FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. –
When some people join the Army Reserve they choose a job that is entirely unrelated to their civilian career, but some Soldiers are able to blend their military specialties and their civilian careers together and reap the benefits of combining the two.
One Soldier who has managed to do that is Spc. Matthew Villasenor, a practical nursing specialist assigned to the 349th Field Hospital. Villasenor is one of hundreds of Soldiers here participating in exercise Global Medic, a medical training exercise that is running in conjunction with Combat Support Training Exercise 91-23-01, ensuring America’s Army Reserve units and Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy on short-notice and bring capable, combat-ready, and lethal capabilities in support of the Army and our joint partners anywhere in the world.
When Villasenor is not performing medical duties for the Army Reserve, he is treating and caring for patients as a licensed practical nurse for a county jail in Southern California.
Although he is now managing two careers in the medical field, he says that he wasn’t always as focused. “I wasn’t the best student, I messed up a lot in high school,” he said. “I didn’t take school seriously at all.”
He knew he had to do something different if anything was going to change. That something different ended up being a career in the Army Reserve.
“I joined the Army Reserve straight out of high school,” he said. “I went to basic training, and then attended AIT (advanced individual training), which is where I got my LPN license. I got my LPN when I was 19, and I’ve been working as a nurse ever since.”
There are dozens of medical military occupational specialties, and originally, Villasenor wanted to be a combat medic. But after talking with his mentors, he opted for the nursing career path.
“It allows for a lot more critical care, which is something I enjoy, so I decided to go that route,” he said.
Nurses are vital for the Army Reserve’s medical readiness strategy, and the position’s impact isn’t lost on Villasenor.
“The Army Reserve having nurses is a big part of our readiness and wellness,” he said. “One of the Army’s main functions is combat. As a part of that, some people are going to get hurt, so it’s important to have trained people in place to make good, life-saving decisions.”
Villasenor stands ready to make those life-saving decisions, thanks to the training he has completed.
“I feel 100 percent confident in my nursing ability thanks to training from the Army Reserve,” he said. “When it comes to critical care and ICU work, I feel like I know my job from front to back. I get to train my nursing skills every month, and it gives me a chance to teach my peers in my specialty, which is psychiatric care.”
Spc. Villasenor has some words of advice for anyone considering the Army Reserve.
“If you would have asked me at 16 if I was going to go to college at all, I would have said definitely not,” he said. “But the Army Reserve offered me a purpose, a job, and stability in my life. I went with it, and through the Army Reserve, I learned the importance of discipline and sticking with things. That’s the only reason that I’m starting my [registered nurse] program next month. I’m continuing my schooling and furthering my career.”