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Military Vets as in Veterinarians

Captain Jeffries (left), Commander Golden, Captain Miller-Reyes. Photographs by Wendy Savage.

Mandy Jeffries and Kelly Miller, two North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine students, had an added reason to celebrate the weekend of May 10.

In addition to participating in the traditional Oath and Hooding and graduation ceremonies marking the successful completion of the four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, the two were promoted to the rank of Captain in the United States Army in ceremonies before the NC State University Bell Tower—a memorial to graduates who were killed during World War I.

As an added celebratory note, the senior officer promoting Jeffries and Miller was Commander Tara Golden, United States Navy Reserve—and another member of the CVM Class of 2014. (Related article on Commander Golden.)

“Any senior officer could have promoted us,” says now Captain Jeffries, “but we asked Tara because the three of us spent the last four years on this roller coaster ride and we accomplished so much together. We were honored to have her promote us.”

photo of graduates

The newest CVM alumni took different military routes to the promotion ceremony and will now follow different paths as they continue military and veterinary careers.

A local Raleigh resident, Mandy attended NC State as an undergraduate. She joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Program and upon graduation was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army. In her senior year she applied for and received an educational delay from active duty to attend the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Originally from Chicago, Kelly took a less traditional route to the promotion ceremony. She entered the Army immediately after graduating from high school and served as a medical laboratory technician. After eight years, she left active duty to obtain her undergraduate degree at UNC Pembroke through what the Army calls the Green to Gold Program and participated in the ROTC training as an enlisted servicewoman. Like Jeffries, Miller was commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon graduation and then attended the CVM through the Army’s educational delay provision.

Jeffries and Miller will spend June at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for additional training in food safety and animal medicine through the Vet Track Program designed for veterinarians. On July 10 they will report to their first duty stations—Dover Air Force Base in Dover, DE for Jeffries and Minot Air Force Base in Minot, SD for Miller.

The Army is the only military service with a veterinary corps so Army veterinarians also support Navy, Marine, and Air Force operations. An Army veterinarian typically is responsible for food safety and public health as well as animal health, including Military Working Dogs (MWD) and other federal government-owned animals (border control horses and dogs). They also support the veterinary needs of base personnel pets and, when deployed, a variety of in-country animals. This last mission is particularly significant when deployed in a third-world country where the health of food animals is critical to the population and goodwill between local residents and is important to the success of the overall mission.

photo of graduatesJeffries has a seven-year service commitment to the Army but no  educational debt. “I paid for one year of an eight-year education,” she says. “All tuition, fees, books were paid for by the military. My starting salary is comparable or better than what I would make initially in the private sector, my living expenses will be minimal, there’s encouragement and financial support to continue my education so I could do a residency or obtain a master’s in public health, plus the pension is good.

“There are obviously are many benefits to combining education, a veterinary career, and military service,” Jeffries continues. “It’s been a great experience so far and I expect it to be even better down the road. The main point: it’s an honor and privilege to serve our country.”

More information on the Class of 2014.