Videos: Today's Military

José Gutierrez: I feel like I'm most passionate about letting people know what's possible for them, helping people overcome any obstacle that might be in their way of their pursuit of happiness.

I decided to enlist in the Air Force because I was ready for an adventure to travel the world and do something that people would have a great story to tell later on. So I spent four years in North Dakota, guarding missile sites. I enjoyed putting on the uniform and what it stood for, what it represented.

It was probably one of the best times of my life because everyone was really supportive. I never realized people so different from me would actually become my closest friends, and everyone's from different states, different ethnicities, different upbringings, socioeconomic classes.

The people who were probably really influential who are in the health care career field, they really enjoyed working with people, that was something I also enjoy doing.

It wasn't until I went home on leave, and I was in an aircraft, and I remember hearing a frantic voice of a flight attendant asking if there was a doctor on board, and she sounded really scared and really panicked, and this woman stood up, and she said, "Well, I'm not a doctor, but I'm a nurse. I can go over and check him out." Everyone was just so relieved. It wasn't until that moment that I saw myself in a similar position of responding to someone who is in that sort of crisis. I knew immediately that it was a direction I wanted to go to.

I decided that being a nurse was going to be the next step that I wanted to take. I had my mind set on going to school, becoming a nurse, and closing the chapter on the Military and just really being appreciative of the experience.

One of the things that you have to do when you get out of the Air Force, or out of Active Duty at least, is you have to talk to a Reserve recruiter. That's actually a part of your checklist. I sat down, I was ready to say no, and he said, "Well, you know, you can actually have both. Like, you can still go to school and still be in the Military. And one of the positions that's available that you can go into is Bioenvironmental Engineering. And that really piqued my interest.

Speaker 1: I told him, I said, "You like it. Don't give it up. I mean, just try to talk to somebody that can give you the time to go to school, and I think that can work for you. If he can help the other people, I don't see why he would want to give it up."

José Gutierrez: One thing I never considered was how a person's working environment can really affect their health. I was excited that this job would give me that perspective. I thought that it was going to be a good opportunity to round out my education, and so I went with it.

I went back to the recruiter, and I said, "I'm all in." And armed with my wonderful GI Bill, I applied to the best schools, and I got into Yale, and I decided that this was going to be the next adventure in my life.

I am a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force Reserve, and I am a Bioenvironmental Engineering Technician. Our main responsibility is to ensure that all personnel that work in shops are working in an environment that's safe and that they are working with the proper protective equipment and policies in place from any hazards that might be in their workplace. And that can include noise levels, that can include radiation, the quality of the water that's on the base, just to name a few.

These are also factors that play an important role whether or not someone is well. And it's given me the knowledge to be able to investigate deeper when it comes to learning how to diagnose an illness or learning how I'm going to treat a certain ailment. So it's given me a perspective to look at things in a different way that I might not have considered before.

Speaker 2: He's thinking about his future in the Reserve because he's thinking about all the benefits that he got from the Air Force.

José Gutierrez: Being in the Reserves is the best of both worlds. So you can live a full and happy and productive civilian life and still also have this side of you going on the weekends to put on a uniform, sort of like a superhero.

Every once in a while it catches me off guard that there's some really cool things that I get to do, and I don't feel like I have to compromise my personal goals in order to have this experience in the Military that I enjoy having in my life. I gained an appreciation over time as far as the sacrifices that service members have to make, and if I can somehow help them in some capacity, then that makes me happy on so many levels. I think that's pretty much the passion that drives me to do the things that I do.