KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Many enlisted service members join the U.S. military right after graduating high school, but there are some who choose to join the service later in life. That is the case for Spc. Neil Hood, a health care specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Sustainment Brigade.
Spc. Neil Hood, a health care specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, and Montclair, N.J., native stitches up a patient on March 21, 2013 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tanjie Patterson, 3rd Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)
Hood, who was born in Montclair, N.J., moved to Orlando, Fla., when he was 15-years-old. After completing high school, he then attended the University of Central Florida, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in humanities.
After completing college, Hood worked a number of different types of jobs—ranging from a coffee shop to watering plants and gardening, to working at a convenience store.
“I worked many jobs during and after college, but once I started a family I realized that I needed insurance, something more stable and I wanted to do something different,” he said.
Something different meant serving his country. Hood said that he originally wanted to join the Marine Corps because his father, grandfather and cousins were all Marines, but he couldn't because of his age. At age 35, Hood elected to enlist into the Army where he decided between a profession in military intelligence or health care.
“I waited a while for a job that I wanted to become available, so once they offered me the job as a medic I took it,” he said. “I was excited and nervous all at the same time because I had done nothing medical prior to me joining the Army, but I also looked forward to learning something new.”
Hood attended basic combat training at Fort Benning, Ga., and advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he graduated with honors. Now he is assigned to his first duty station at Fort Stewart, Ga., but currently serving on a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The father of two: a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter said, “Transitioning from working in a retail environment to working in health care was a huge change for me, but it helped me have an appreciation for learning again because it had been about 11 years since I'd been in college.”
At Kandahar Airfield, Hood works at the clinic where he is responsible for patient care such as screening patients for the physician's assistant and treating minor symptoms. When he's not working in the clinic he's providing direct medical coverage for convoys throughout Southern Afghanistan.
“I get a great deal of satisfaction from taking care of patients,” he said. “I feel like what we (medical personnel) do as far as helping take care of people is a noble pursuit, and I feel great about it.”
When he's not aiding the pain of fellow Soldiers, you can find him surrounded with friends or watching movies.
“Being a health care specialist doesn't allow for much free time, but the little time that I do get, I like to spend it with friends,” he said. “The best part about being deployed is that I've got to meet a lot of different people from around the world, and I've made some new friends also.”
His short-term goal is to become promoted to the rank of sergeant.
“I want to become a non-commissioned officer so that I can mentor young Soldiers,” said Hood. “I feel like I have a lot to offer when it comes to development and communication as well as relationship building.”
Hood's ultimate goal is to be accepted to the Army's Interservice Physician Assistant Program. The IPAP program allows qualified officers and enlisted soldiers the opportunity to become a physician assistant. Upon completion of the program, graduates earn a master's degree from the University of Nebraska and they also receive a commission as a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Specialist Corps.
“I would love to become a physician's assistant serving in the military,” said Hood. “The Army has gifted me the desire to stay in the medical field.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Tanjie Patterson
Provided through DVIDS
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