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Face of Defense: Reservist Balances Military, Civilian Jobs

By Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Boyer
U.S. Army Reserve Command

FORT McCOY, Wis., July 19, 2012 – Balancing duties as a soldier in the Army Reserve with a civilian career can be tricky, but for some soldiers, having two careers that enhance one another is a plus.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Dustin Chavez, a reservist and operating room specialist with the 352nd Combat Support Hospital, finishes putting on and taking off his Mission Oriented Protective Posture suit and mask during drills at the 2012 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 16, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Benjamin John

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Spc. Dustin Chavez, 28, an operating room technician representing the 807th Medical Deployment Support Command at the 2012 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition here, works as a woodland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service when he's not in military uniform.

Chavez, who hails from Pollock Pines, Calif., said his military and civilian jobs both require the ability to be ready to move up and lead at the next level.

“On the civilian side, they [emphasize] leadership a lot, because we have opportunities to put very few people out to staff small fires,” Chavez said. “You have to lead up and make sure the person below you knows how to do your job, and you know how to do the job one level up from you. You have to be ready to move up. That's what I like about the Army, because it's the same way.”

As he applies leadership lessons and moves through the ranks in his military and civilian jobs, Chavez said, he wants other reservists to see they can incorporate both sides of their work lives.

“A lot of times, it can be easy to separate them,” he said. “I want people to see that I am doing both and trying hard to make it work.”

Chavez said his supervisors at the Forest Service are supportive of his Army Reserve career and made sure he had time to prepare for the warrior competitions here.

“I've had to take a lot of time off of work, but they've worked with me,” he said. “They've been very supportive -- especially with the ruck march. That's pretty much what we do: walk into fires after being dropped off. It's one of my favorite events because it directly relates to what I do as a civilian.”

Chavez grew in a military family with five sisters. Both his mother and father retired from the Air Force, and three of his sisters are active-duty airmen. He joined the Army Reserve three years ago after the Air Force turned him down for deafness in his left ear.

“I'm the ‘black sheep’ who went into the Army in my family,” Chavez said. “I was disqualified from the Air Force when I tried to join after high school. The Army gave me the opportunity.”

In addition to participating in three levels of competition before coming to Wisconsin, Chavez recently completed the Warrior Leader Course. He said he wants to take some of the excitement of this week of competition back to the other soldiers in his unit, the 352nd Combat Support Hospital.

“When a lot of soldiers come in and just do battle assemblies, it can get repetitive,” he said. “To see this side of the Army and go above and beyond has augmented my excitement about the Army. I want to take that home and show soldiers below me that there is more to the Army.”


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