Tara Golden is preparing to embark on yet another mission.
Commander Golden, a 1998 graduate of the United States Naval Academy who has deployed on several missions during her 16 years of military service, has added the DVM degree to her accomplishments with her graduation from North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
As part of the past weekend’s activities which included the Oath and Hooding Ceremony and graduation, Golden, as senior officer, promoted CVM 2014 classmates Amanda Jeffries and Kelly Miller to the rank of Captain in the United States Army.
Golden, who describes herself as a Navy brat and calls Norfolk VA home, says both father and mother are retired naval officers. Between the three of them they have more than 60 years of military service and counting as Golden plans to remain active in the Navy Reserves.
Golden has had one of the more unusual paths to a veterinary career. After her receiving her commission, she went to Pensacola, FL to become an aviator and learned to be a navigator on the Northrop Grumman E2C Hawkeye, a tactical airborne early warning aircraft that can be aircraft carrier based.
She deployed to the carrier USS Harry S. Truman with the VAW-126 Sea Hawk Squadron and in the course of three years participated in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. At that point she became the first female instructor Naval Flight Officer (navigator) for the E2C Hawkeye with the Fleet Readiness Squadron.
“That was an honor,” says Commander Golden. “After that I went back to an aircraft carrier strike group. My job was to write air and communications plans for all of the squadrons involved in the group at that time. This includes the Helicopter Squadron, the Prowler Squadron, the F-18 and F-14 Squadrons, and the E2C Hawkeye Squadron.”
Golden then became a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) instructor and directed the program for Norfolk State University for three years. Next was a one-year assignment supporting with General David Petraeus in the U.S. Central Command, working with the Afghanistan and Pakistan planning group. Her duty included a deployment to Qatar, during which she decided she wanted to obtain a DVM degree.
Rather than leaving the military after a 12 years, she applied for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to cover the four-year cost of attending NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and joined the Navy Reserves. For the past four years she has been a DVM student and has been with the Navy Warfare Development Command, becoming an executive officer or second–in-command of the reserve detachment.
“I drilled every month with my reserve group while at the CVM,” Golden says. “There were a certain number of active duty days during the summer as well to maintain what is called ‘a good military year’. I did have the chance to work with military dogs two years ago.”
Golden will join a new unit in November and will continue in the Navy Reserve to complete her four-year Post-9/11 GI Bill obligation while working as a private practice veterinarian. She is not sure if she will retire in four years or continue in the reserves.
“There is a luxury in the reserves if you have civilian expertise that the military can tap,” says Golden. “For example, they may have me work on military working dogs protocols or I might be supporting a Navy Seal Team. I tell people as a veterinarian you can be a warrior and a compassionate doctor at the same time.”
Note: Painting “Veteran to Veterinarian” done by Katie Bedard, another graduate of the Class of 2014.