Army Veterinarian Part 3: The Decision to Commit

This is the third article in a series about my experiences as a veterinarian in the U.S. Army. You can find everything I’ve written about being an Army veterinarian on this dedicated page.

Elliott Garber Egypt with Blackhawk

“Okay, thanks again Sergeant. I’ll be in touch within a couple of weeks to let you know my final decision.”

Click. I closed my little flip phone (yes, this was way back in 2005) and just stood there for a couple of minutes. Wow, I thought. This is it, my ticket to a totally different life than I ever imagined as a vet. But now I actually have to make a decision.

Officer First, Veterinarian Second

I had approached the whole application process for the HPSP scholarship with the idea that I simply wanted to see if it might even be an option. I took some kind of strange comfort in the fact that I hadn’t committed to anything yet. Sure, I had done a lot of research and spoken with a number of Army veterinarians about their experiences, but I still didn’t feel ready to actually make the decision.

But now the option was there. I was being offered a three-year, all expenses paid, free ride for the rest of my time in veterinary school. All I had to do was sign on the dotted line and commit three years of my life to active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army.

That last phrase is important: “an officer in the U.S. Army.” Even though I was especially selected for my veterinary expertise, the Army sees me first and foremost as simply another officer and soldier. I didn’t really understand how significant this distinction was at the time of my decision, so I hope that I can share this reality with you.

I am an officer first, and a veterinarian second.

If you are considering the Army route to help pay for vet school, you need to realize that it’s not like any other job as a veterinarian. The Army is not simply another employer, paying you for your skills, like VCA or Banfield or your neighborhood vet clinic.

The Army also expects me to be a responsible leader, making weighty decisions that impact the safety of our soldiers and American citizens around the world. My primary role is to support the military’s diverse missions in protecting U.S. interests from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Sometimes this involves clinical care of animals using my veterinary training.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, I get it. But really you’re just working as a vet, right?”

And I have to respond honestly, “No, not really.” An Army veterinarian’s day-to-day job is completely dependent on the type of assignment he or she is in, and I’ll get into the details a lot more in future articles about my own three assignments so far.

Yep, that's me.

Yep, that’s me.

But we all have to qualify as proficient on various weapons on a regular basis, participate in vehicle rollover and convoy planning exercises, and march in formation for miles with a heavy backpack and full combat gear. Many of us spend months or years in combat environments, facing the regular possibility of a violent injury or death. Some of us jump out of airplanes and spend months learning to survive out in enemy territory.

So no, we’re not just working as vets. That’s usually been a fun thing for me, but it’s not for everyone, and it’s important to understand this reality.

Last-Minute Doubts and Concerns

But back to that cold Massachusetts spring as a first year vet student, naively unaware of all the life implications that my pending decision would have.

I had two primary concerns. First, I was worried that I might not have the chance to develop into a proficient clinical veterinarian by going right into the Army. This was a frequent complaint I had heard from the Army veterinarians I had spoken with: they often didn’t have the on-the-job mentorship that they would have liked in the first assignment out of school.

Even though I knew I probably didn’t want to be a clinician for most of my career, I still wanted to be a good veterinarian and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to solidify my expertise by getting a solo practice first assignment. This shouldn’t be as much of a concern for current applicants, however, because most new Army vets are now required to go through a year-long internship program at one of five big Army veterinary hospitals around the country.

My second concern was that these years in the Army would keep me from being able to pursue my greatest passions in the veterinary world surrounding wildlife conservation, public health, infectious diseases, and economic development. I knew that I probably wouldn’t really be able to get my dream job with this stuff in the Army, and I was right about that.

The Decision

After a few weeks involving many conversations with family and friends, much prayer, and lots of phone calls from my recruiter (he needed me to make the commitment in order to get credit for the whole process), I finally said yes.

I decided that the financial freedom offered through the HPSP scholarship would more than compensate for a few years of not being able to directly pursue my grandest career dreams. And so far, this has turned out to be a good decision. I will finish my commitment to the Army in the summer of 2014 with no student loan debt and the resulting freedom to make my next career decisions with a lot more flexibility than I would have otherwise had.

The Commissioning Ceremony

And so after another round of signing papers and second guessing, I found myself a couple of months later raising my right hand to take my oath and accept my commission. We had chosen to hold the event on the historic Boston Common, site of some of our country’s first patriotic acts. Every officer’s commission comes officially from the President of the United States, and mine opens with these inspiring words:

Know Ye, that reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of Elliott Richard Garber, I do appoint him Second Lieutenant in the Veterinary Corps of the United States Army.

Elliott-Garber-HPSP-Swearing-In

I still cringe every time I see the pictures from this event. How in the world could I think it was appropriate to sport my little flavor saver facial hair and keep my hand in my pocket during the ceremony?!

Elliott-Garber-crazy-hairAt least my recruiter managed to convince me to tame down some of the crazier hair styles he had witnessed over the course of that year.

The ceremony went well, however, and my new colleagues were gracious about my complete lack of knowledge about proper military bearing. It was especially fun to have my mom and a few siblings (I’m one of five) there to witness the beginning of this new stage in life.

Elliott-Garber-HPSP-Commissioning

And that was it! I didn’t have to buy uniforms or do any military training for another three years, but I began getting nice monthly deposits in my bank account and I never saw another tuition bill from Tufts.

I’ll discuss more details about the rest of my time in veterinary school as an HPSP recipient in my next article.

Do you think I made a good decision in accepting the scholarship? Would you be willing to trade a few years of your life for financial freedom and flexibility later on?

Make sure you check out this dedicated page to find everything I’ve written about being an Army veterinarian all in one place.

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45 Responses to “Army Veterinarian Part 3: The Decision to Commit”

  1. Trevor March 22, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    Hi Elliot,
    Thank you for this recent post. I feel like I am in a similar position you were in before you were awarded the HPSP. I see many great benefits and opportunities, but I also know I can find fulfillment pursuing other career paths. I am also worried that I will not gain all of the medicine and surgical skills that my colleagues will be gaining after veterinary school. Plus there is the risk of being station to a less than stellar assignment. I like the idea of the internship, but only if it counts towards my active duty commitment (which it won’t).
    It sounds like you did make a good decision! You knew going in that the Army wouldn’t be all fun and games. You weighed the pros and cons and so far the pros have outweighed the cons! Plus you gained unique experiences that you would have never been able to gain otherwise.

    • Elliott March 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

      Thanks for the affirmation, Trevor. It’s worked out pretty well for me, but I do wonder sometimes about what I might be doing right now if I had pursued some other course right out of school.

      Yes, the Army internship is kind of a trade-off since you gain helpful experience but don’t pay back any of your commitment.

  2. Marie March 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Thanks Elliott for this post!

    I’ll be honest, I recently became engaged and truly look forward to starting a family with my future husband. I’ve been contemplating this route for quite some but I’m so nervous and “blind” to the convenience of this route and having a family. Can you elaborate on this at all please??

    • Elliott March 26, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Hi Marie, thanks for your question. Congrats on your engagement! I think the Army can be a really friendly environment for families, but it also comes with its own unique pressures and strains. I have several female colleagues here in Europe who have had babies this year, and they’re able to enjoy six weeks of maternity leave and fairly flexible scheduling after going back to work. However, you do have to accept the possibility that you could be required to travel frequently for work and even be deployed within a year of having a baby. I was in Egypt for a year on an unaccompanied assignment when my daughter was born. Fortunately I got to be home for the birth itself and my 10 days of paternity leave, but then I had to go back to Egypt for another three months. These forced separations can be really tough. So there are trade-offs just like in everything!

  3. Kat March 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Hi Elliott –
    Thanks so much for providing all this information – and this last post is hitting home! I’m just starting vet school this coming fall and the financial rewards from the Army’s HPSP program sounds incredibly appealing, but I’m afraid of the other impacts it will have on my life (assuming of course I even managed to outcompete the other applicants and be approved). What are your plans once your 3 years are up? Will you be staying with the Army or moving on to something else?

    Also, on a slightly different note, what are the best ways to make an applicant of the HPSP more appealing? Is it based off of GPA, experiences, etc? I attempted to ask the recruiter this question but I don’t think I was talking to the right person – they basically answered very generically. I’ve been trying to get in touch with the health professions recruiter in my area and it’s not been very easy.

    Again, thanks for all your help and everything! I really appreciate it.

    • Elliott March 30, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Hey Kat, thanks for your questions and comments. Congrats on getting into vet school! That’s the first big hurdle, obviously, so you’re already part way there.

      I’m still trying to decide on my own plans after my current assignment in Sicily is over. I will finish my commitment (a total of five years, since I did another Loan Repayment Program as well) in the summer of 2014. I’ll definitely keep this community updated as I begin making more decisions!

      I think the most important things you can do to have a competitive HPSP application are to get the best vet school GPA you can, cultivate some good relationships with professors or other mentors who will write you glowing letters of recommendation, and do all you can to learn about being an Army vet so that you can write an honest and appealing statement of motivation.

      Feel free to contact me through my site here if you ever have more specific questions as you get closer to the application process.

  4. daninicole14 March 29, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    Glad to see another post about the Army and HPSP scholarship! Sorry, I have fallen behind on reading the rest of the blogs (hope to catch up with them soon).
    As always, I appreciate your honesty about the process/decision/experience.

    • Elliott March 30, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Glad to see you back, Dani! Hope the semester is treating you well.

  5. Melissa Farelas April 10, 2013 at 6:53 am #

    Hello Elliot-
    I am also considering this route in order to help with vet school. but, to be completely honest, army is probably the last career I can see myself in. but, at the same time, im on my own and will have to pay for vet school myself. if I have an opportunity for free tuition, I’m willing. I really appreciate your blog because I just started thinking about this. I had been thinking that I would just be a veterinarian within the army. Now, im concerned about the drills and such. I am quite confident in my leadership skills, but I can barely do pullups. So you were not using your veterinary skill mainly? What is expected of you, then? are you technically a soldier? is it mandatory to leave to other countries or could you have gone somewhere closeby? Thanks so much.

    • Elliott Garber April 15, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      Hey Melissa, it’s always good to consider all your options so I’m glad you’ve written.

      I should start off by saying that if the Army is really the last organization you can imagine yourself in then you might be best off pursuing other options. It’s a serious commitment with life-changing implications! Even though we are commissioned in the Army as veterinarians, and most of us primarily use our veterinary training in our day-to-day jobs, we are also soldiers and are expected to be ready to fulfill all the regular requirements of any other soldier.

      Fortunately you don’t have to worry about the pull-ups! The only physical fitness things we are tested on are the push-up, the sit-up, and a 2-mile run. Marines have to do pull-ups, but not us.

      The majority of veterinarians in the Army are stationed at military bases in the U.S., but there are also people like me with assignments all over the world. If you only wanted to do the three year active duty commitment and then get out, you would have a decent chance of just staying in the States if that’s what you want. Not guaranteed, of course.

      Hope that helps and good luck as you think through this decision!

      • Lacie May 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

        Hi Elliott! As an add on to your response to Melissa, I have a question. I have been contemplating the Army as well, since I already have a large amount of student loan debt from undergrad and grad. I do not know anyone personally in the program, so it is difficult to decide what to do. When you enter, do you have to go through the whole boot camp thing? If so, I need to start preparing now! 🙂 I have been told by some that all you do is inspect meat at the commissaries. Do you get to practice any veterinary medicine while on active duty? Sorry for the silly questions, but it is a life altering commitment and I need to gather as much intel as possible! Plus, I am married and my husband works for NASA, so I have to consider his job as well. Thanks for sharing your stories and experiences!!

        • Elliott May 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

          Hey Lacie, thanks for these questions. I can totally understand your perspective because I was in the same boat when I was making this big decision.

          All veterinary officers do have to go to a Basic Officer Leadership Course, which is kind of like the “boot camp” you’re thinking of but a little bit less intense as it is geared towards medical professions officers. It does involve lots of physical activity and field training, but honestly most people don’t have too much difficulty with it.

          The vast majority of new vets in the Army do a combination of clinical medicine and public health/food safety. It would be rare to find a position where you were only doing food safety, and you as the veterinarian are not actually the one “inspecting meat at the commissaries”. This is the job of your food inspection soldiers, and it is our role to supervise them in that important work.

          I’ll be writing a lot more about my experiences post-graduation, and I think these future articles will help answer your questions!

  6. Colbert April 11, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I recognize that patch,The Flying Nemo and your exact location in the top photo. How long ago were in the Sinai?

    • Elliott Garber April 15, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Well hello to a fellow MFOer! I was there from July 2010 – July 2011. How about yourself? Were you in the veterinary field?

  7. Aliza April 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Hi dr garder,
    I am a senior in high school, and I am going in to college next fall as a pre veterinary major. After researching about what army veterinarians is, I have come to think that this may be a option for me in the future as a career. My question for you is do you think it is better for me to in list in as a freshman in undergrad or what until veterinary school to in list. My worry is if I in list as a frishman will I get the excerence I need to get into vet school like summer internships.

    • Elliott April 18, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Aliza, thanks for your questions! I would probably recommend waiting until you are starting vet school to apply for the HPSP scholarship as your route into the Army. If you enlist now or even start an ROTC program, it’s likely that you will have to serve at least four years of active duty after college doing something other than veterinary medicine. It’s not impossible to do it this way, but it does make it more difficult to get back onto the vet school track eventually. Let me know if you need any more clarification and I will be happy to help.

  8. Annie April 25, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    Hi Elliot,

    I will be entering vet school this fall and am very interested in the HPSP scholarship. I have a background in international wildlife conservation and have lived and worked in Belize, French Polynesia, and Ecuador. My ultimate dream job is to work with animals in Latin America–I don’t particularly care what I’m doing with them (inspection or general care is all fine with me). Do you think international experience will help my application? I’m mediocre at Spanish right now but am intensely studying over the summer. Will knowing a second language help? What are the chances of me ending up somewhere in Latin America? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the world, but I think it would be nice to end up somewhere where I speak the language!

    I’ve heard there’s a wait-list for a combat deployment. Is that true? To be honest, I really don’t think I’m cut out for combat-related work. What are the chances of me ending up there anyway? Do those chances change if I can’t get HPSP and end up enlisting after vet school?

    Thank you so much for your willingness to help all of us!
    -Annie

    • Elliott April 27, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Hey Annie, thanks for your questions. Congrats on getting into vet school, first of all! It sounds like you’ve already had some unique experiences, and I hope you’re able to continue down that path.

      There are opportunities to work in Latin America as an Army vet, but it’s actually one of the few regions of the world where we don’t really have any permanent bases. I know of lots of vets who have gone on missions from a few weeks to a few months to Central and South America, but never longer than that. We do have one base with a vet assigned in Puerto Rico. I’m actually pretty comfortable with Spanish after studying it all the way through college, but I haven’t gotten to use it much in my Army career so far.

      In general there do seem to be more vets interested in deploying to combat zones than there are slots available right now. However, I still know of several peers who have been deployed without volunteering and without really wanting to. By signing on as an Army officer, you are pledging to support and defend our country’s interests in whatever ways your commanders require. It’s likely that you could avoid a combat deployment, but not guaranteed. The situation would not be any different if you join through HPSP or as a direct commission after graduating.

      Good luck!

  9. Lauren May 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Hi, Elliot! I’m not even out of high school yet, but being a veterinarian in the Army is always something I’ve found extremely intriguing. I’ve always wanted to be a vet, and I have so much respect for our troops, but I knew becoming a member of the armed forces outside of health care wasn’t necessarily for me. With that said, do you have to go through army boot camp? And are there any special qualifications necessary to be accepted? Thanks so much for the articles! God bless!

    • Elliott May 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Hey Lauren, it’s great that you’re already thinking ahead about different possibilities for a career as a veterinarian. Army vets do have to go through an officer basic training course. This is similar to the regular boot camp that enlisted soldiers go through, but it is not quite as intense physically or emotionally. The focus is on training new healthcare officers on the basics of being a soldier. The primary qualifications to be accepted as an Army veterinarian are good physical health, excellent academic performance, and high quality recommendations from former supervisors and professors. It’s similar to applying for any job, except for the emphasis on the medical history. Good luck!

  10. Halley June 21, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    Hi Elliot !

    It seems like all I have been able to think about lately is what I will do with my life outside of high school. I’m going into the 11th grade this year, so I have a little bit of time on my side to really consider my options. I had a question about the HPSP scholarship. Do you have to already be attending college, like in the undergraduate programs? What is the best time to apply for the scholarship? Also, should I go ahead and contact a recruiter and tell them I am interested in becoming an Army Veterinarian?

    I have so many questions ! Thank you so much for helping us all! 🙂

    -Halley

    • Elliott July 15, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      Halley, thanks for your questions! It’s great that you’re beginning to think about this so early.

      You can’t apply for the HPSP scholarship until you are in your first year of vet school, so you have plenty of time to think about and prepare for that! Another option to consider is applying for some type of ROTC program as an undergraduate. This would give you some great financial benefits along with getting your foot in the door on the path to becoming a veterinarian in the Army.

      It’s probably not worth contacting a recruiter about it now — they will just try to convince you to enlist right now, when it’s probably more in your interests to get to college. Good luck!

  11. Beatriz Vega June 26, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Dr. Garber,

    I have quite enjoyed your articles regarding your decision to join the army veterinary corps. I am currently toying with the idea of joining but as most, I have a lot of fear involving serving my country overseas. I am a single mother with two children. I must admit the monthly stipend, benefits, and financial freedoms the veterinary corps offers is very much appealing but I often wonder at what cost. Along your journey, have you met any single parents that have joined the veterinary corps? If so, is there any way I may get in contact with them in order to gain more information to ensure that the army is the right decision for me?

    In terms of the HPSP scholarship, have you at any time during your graduate studies been interrupted for active duty? I have spoken to a couple of recruiters and both have given different answers. One stated that at no point in time during your graduate studies will you be interrupted to perform active duty while another stated that there is no guarantee that you will not be called for duty during your DVM program years. What do you know from experience?

    Thank you very much for any information you provide.

    Sincerely,

    Beatriz

  12. Jackyja October 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Dr. Garber,

    I have been searching through out the Internet trying to find answers to some questions I have. I am not sure if you would have an idea. I do want to mention that of all my Internet cruising you have had the most informative site that I’ve found. Especially from a personal perspective. I’ve enjoyed reading your accounts on Vet life in the army.

    My husband is currently at a University getting his Bachelors degree. He plans on attending Vet school when he graduates next year. He has told me that he wants to enroll in the army once he graduates from the University with his bachelor’s so he can go in as an officer. He is 32 years old. He wants to take advantage of the Army helping pay for Vet school. I am assuming the way it works is that if he is accepted into the vet school of his choice, and accepted into the Army, we would live in the area of his school and the Army would pay for his education for 3 years of Vet school. He is currently looking at Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. I don’t entirely understand how he would serve in the Army while attending classes at Vet school. Also what happens after he graduates Vet school and he is still in the Army. As his wife do I go with him to where he is sent? Would we live on a base or have our own housing? Where we would live is particularly concerning to me, because my husband and I both have and currently worked in Vet hospitals for many years now. In saying this I must admit we have accumulated a lot of pets. Several dogs and cats. I have heard there is breed restrictions on base and restrictions on the amount of pets as well. Our pets are extremely well taken care of and they are literally are children and giving them up is not an option for us.
    Also he seems to think that the possibility of him being deployed to another country and seeing action is slim to none. I feel after reading several of your articles that is not the case. I do not know if you are able to provide me with any information that would be helpful in our case. I have found very little info for a wife of someone who’s planning on enrolling in Vet school and in the Army. I may be looking in all the wrong places though.
    I hope that I wasn’t to confusing with my thoughts and questions. If you have the time to address any of my questions it would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!
    Jacky

    • Elliott November 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      Hey Jacky, thanks for your kind comments! I’m glad you’ve found the site helpful.

      If your husband gets a HPSP scholarship while in vet school, he won’t really have to do anything extra for the Army while he’s still in school. He’ll have the option to do some of his summer internships and clinical electives with Army vets, but that’s not required. The real commitment starts soon after graduation.

      The majority of assignments for Army veterinarians are “accompanied,” which means the servicemember’s spouse and/or children can live with them. The exceptions are for combat deployments and certain areas of the world that are harder for dependents, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. I spent a year in Egypt on an unaccompanied assignment, so my wife couldn’t come with me for that.

      I think that officers have the choice to live on or off base at pretty much all U.S. locations. For overseas assignments, it really depends on the base. I’ve only heard of a breed restriction against pit bulls at certain Marine bases in the U.S., but I’m pretty sure this is not allowed anymore. Not 100% sure though.

      The likelihood of being deployed is totally dependent on what the current situation in the world is. If the U.S. is involved in one or more major military engagements, the chances of deployment are pretty good. I would estimate that at least half of my peers have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the 4+ years that I’ve been in. “Seeing action” is a different story. We are rarely directly in harm’s way, but unfortunately combat injuries and deaths do occur.

      I hope that helps! Good luck as you continue to think about this big decision.

      Elliott

      • Jackyja November 21, 2013 at 1:40 am #

        Thank you so much for the answers. It was very much appreciated, and helpful!
        -Jacky

  13. Barrett November 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Hey Elliot,

    You answered a couple of my question earlier this year, but I have another one for you. I’m a 2nd year vet student at UT and I was awarded the HPSP in April. Could you briefly walk me through the training you have done and everywhere you have been stationed/deployed from graduation until today? From what I understand, the first deployment will be here in the U.S. and the second possibly overseas, but it seems like you’ve gotten to do much more than this, and I’m interested about the other opportunities. By the way, they seem to be really pushing students to do BOLC before graduation as compared to when you went through. I’ve basically been told that BOLC must be my first ADT unless I get a written excuse from my Dean that says school schedule keeps me from going (which is doesn’t this summer, so I will be going to BOLC). They also suggest that it will be harder to get the internship ADTs 4th year unless we’ve already done BOLC.

    Thanks for the help,

    Barrett

    • Elliott November 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      Hey Barrett, congrats on getting the scholarship!

      There’s not one set method of determining what types of assignments you’ll get. It’s true that most people start off in the U.S. and then many go overseas for their second assignment. I was at Ft Belvoir for a year, then in Egypt for a year, and then here in Sicily for the last 2.5 years.

      I’ve also heard about the increased pressure to do BOLC and ADTs during vet school. In reality, they won’t force you to do anything until you graduate. However, if you really want to do military ADTs for some reason, it sounds like you have to do BOLC first. From my perspective, I don’t see a major reason to do that stuff as a vet student. I enjoyed focusing my free time and elective rotations more on my particular areas of interest in the profession. I knew that I would get plenty of Army training and experience once I came on active duty!

  14. Adry January 30, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    You’re articles have really helped get one step closer to making a decision about becoming an Army Vet. I still have so many questions about it but your articles have definitely helped.
    A question I have for you is, if I want to become a military vet, should I go right to basic after I graduate or should I go to college first for awhile? Or does it even matter?
    I’m still trying to figure out if the military route is right for me. I’m going to talk to a recruiter in my area today to get more information.

    • Elliott January 31, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

      Hi Adry, good questions. I’m glad you’ve found these posts helpful! The quickest route to becoming a vet in the Army would be to go to college and then straight into vet school. You would apply for the HPSP scholarship during your first year of vet school. Another possibility would be to apply for an ROTC scholarship for college and then hope for an educational deferment so you can continue on to vet school with the HPSP scholarship.

      I would not recommend enlisting right away as this will seriously delay your educational pursuits, but it’s still a good option for some and I know several Army veterinarians who started out that way. I have some more advice about this in my FAQ section here. Good luck!

  15. Marc February 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    Hello,
    Thank you so much for putting your thoughts and experiences to the keyboard, your posts have already answered so many of my questions, including some I hadn’t thought of yet.
    I am a third year veterinary student and considering signing up after graduating, but I want to participate in an internship to hone those clinical skills. Are the Army internships that you mentioned only for HPSP recipients? or can a new veterinary recruit opt to participate in one of those first? Thanks for everything that you do!

  16. Becca April 20, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Hello Dr. Elliot,

    I just found this website while looking into the scholarship, and first I want to say thank you so much for posting it! To be honest, you’ve provided the most clear and helpful information. (I’ve spoken with a recruiter, but he had relatively limited information on the veterinary corps, and I found that the army websites, both about the HPSP and the veterinary corps, are extremely vague and terribly unhelpful…)

    I’ve been struggling back and forth what to do with my life, and though I’ve finally settled on going to vet school, I’m trying to figure out what to do after, when I stumbled upon the HPSP scholarship. And really, it sounds like a great deal – Not having to worry about anything financially while having the opportunity to do things as a vet that you might not get otherwise, such as traveling around the world, and a chance for structure/stability (with the way I tend to float around with indecisiveness, I think that structured orders would be good for me).

    But in trying to decide whether or not to seriously consider it, I suppose my biggest question for you is what kind of person does being a military vet take?
    Most people I’ve asked advice from just look at me funny and say “the military isn’t for everyone” without elaborating who exactly that is, so I have no idea if I’d be someone to flourish in the army or if I’d be one of the people who instead crashes and burns. (I don’t know anyone personally in the army to ask, and even so, I feel that I’d get a different answer from someone in the infantry vs in the veterinary field.)

  17. Savannah Ferkins May 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Dr. Elliot,

    I’m currently in my Junior year of undergrad and this is what I want to do. My main question is do you get to travel globally typically? Besides being able to pay for vet school I really want to travel the world and eventually do humanitarian work by helping people learn preventative care for their livestock. Do you think this is a good path to do both?

  18. ednita December 3, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    I’m looking into going to vet school . I still have a couple questions after the 3 years in vet shool did you go to basic training? Do they only pay for tuition or do they pay for books as well? Also if they do pay for everything schooling wise did you only have to repay the loan from your first year in vet school? What are the chances that you will get approved for the scholarship?

  19. Caitlin December 29, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    Hello Dr. Garber,
    I am currently a junior in college as a pre-veterinary student. I recently had a real eye-opener about the true cost of Veterinary School. I am looking to go into the army for the scholarship and serve; however, I am not very fit. I not “fat” but was never an active person because I never had to be. I am wondering what the training and main physical commitments I would go through if I would receive this scholarship and join the Army. Additionally, I would be wanting to have a family and am concerned that I would not be able to if I went into the Army. If there is anyway I can talk to you more directly I would really appreciate it, but it not I understand. Thank you for this blog. It has helped me so much already!

  20. S. Hondrum February 15, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    Can someone tell me more about the “food inspection” requirements of a vet in the Army? For example, do you have visit slaughterhouses?

  21. Jamie February 21, 2015 at 1:48 am #

    Dr. Garber,
    I am a junior in high school and being a veterinarian has always been a dream of mine. I have never considered joining the army until recently after having discussions with two of my brothers (who are both in the military) and my guidance counselor. After reading your blogs, being an Army Veterinarian seems very appealing and is something I can see myself doing. One of my brothers participated in Army ROTC at his university and then received an education deferment to complete his doctorate of physical therapy. I was thinking of following a similar path of participating in Army ROTC and then going to veterinary school. This would allow me to receive funding for my undergraduate education, but I would be at risk of not receiving an education deferment. I definitely want to attend veterinarian school before serving in the Army. Do you think ROTC and then vet school would be the best option for me?

  22. Kellie March 22, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Dr. Garber,

    I am very interested in becoming a veterinarian in the Army and have lots of questions that I would appreciate you answering.
    I’m currently a sophomore in high school and would like to have a plan for my future. I’ve looked into ROTC programs at some schools I’m interested in and am still unsure about the path that is best fit for me.
    If I were to just apply for the HPSP would all of my education be paid for? What is mean is does the scholarship only pay for your master’s degree or does it also cover undergraduate. Also, if I were to participate in the ROTC program AND the HPSP would the total amount of service required be 12 years?
    I’m very new to the whole concept, all I really know is that I want to be a vet and serve our country.. Yet I don’t have the money to go all the way through school on my own.
    Thank you so much for considering my questions!
    -Kellie

  23. Kelsey September 28, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    Hi Elliot,
    I’m currently a junior animal science (pre-vet) student at the University of Vermont. As graduation draws near (possibly sooner then a year considering I might be graduating early) I have started to become anxious about paying for vet school. It has been a dream of mine to become a vet since I was a little girl (like so many others, I know) but like you my real goal is to work with wildlife, in conservation and connect that to public health and awareness. I was talking to a friend today actually and found out about this scholarship and have just begun doing research. In a matter of a few hours I had already come up with reasons not to do this (you actually addressed these doubts in your writing. About not gaining the experience right out of school, and being worried that you would ultimately not achieve your long term goal). The more I think about it, the more I think it might be the way to go. Anyway, I guess I just wanted to say thanks for your informative posts and if you have any specific wisdom you’d like to share I’m all ears!

  24. Alexis January 7, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

    Wow Elliot,
    You are hitting all of the major concerns and questions that I have. I really would like to specialize in a particular area of veterinary medicine (possibly cardiology) but it seems that I would have to push this back a few years if I join the army. You mentioned something about a required year of internship.. is this after you graduate veterinary school? I would love to speak with you directly if possible as I am very interested in the scholarship program. Thanks!

  25. Leena April 10, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

    When did you meet your wife and make a family amongst all of this?

    • Elliott May 19, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

      Haha, good question! I met Becca during my fourth year of vet school, and we’ve been slowly adding the kids over these years that I’ve been in the military. It definitely takes a serious commitment from both sides to make it work in the face of unique demands for travel and time away.

  26. Sierra Berkner March 20, 2017 at 12:14 am #

    Hi Elliott!
    I stumbled across your articles and blogs after doing some research on becoming a veterinarian in the army. I am a dual enrolled high school student and I just finished my high school diploma and managed to obtain my associates degree in general studies and sciences before I graduated high school. I will hopefully be attending Young Harris College in mid to late August of this year and hopefully find an accredited vet school to apply to by the end of 2018. Many of the professors at Georgia Military College (the college I will graduate from in May) were pushing me to pursue a path in the military regarding my love for my country as well as using the talents I possess with animals and the passion I have for the job. Your articles have inspired me to really go for this pathway, however, I am also in pursuit of finding more veterinarians in the army that I can talk to and gain insight from. I would like to talk to those that have recently been in the military, at the end of their commitments and those that are already out just to hear their own stories and opinions. If you have any way of allowing me to contact some of those people if you know of any that would be as great of help as your articles have already been for me! Thank you so much!

  27. Katlyn November 3, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    Hi, so I have a question for you. I am a pre-vet student at Findlay and I am thinking about the same stuff when you entered the army. I have always wanted to be a veterniarn in the army and I never wanted to be stuck in a clinic all day. But, the problem is that I know I want kids in the future. So do you think that it is still possible to have time for kids? Did you do it?

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  1. Army Veterinarian Part 2: Applying for the Health Professions Scholarship Program - November 13, 2013

    […] sure you continue on to the third article in the Army Veterinarian series, in which I discuss making the final decision to accept the HPSP scholarship and share the details […]

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