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NEWS | Oct. 3, 2016

Two degrees and counting for Kentucky Soldier

By Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

It took her four years to earn the title sergeant. Soon, Sarah Wilson could also be addressed as doctor.

The communications non-commissioned officer with the 149th Brigade Support Battalion has spent the better part of five years enhancing her education, all in the hopes of becoming a clinical psychologist.

Being a member of the Guard is helping her get there.

“As far as the Guard’s part in my educational success, it has definitely been a keystone. The educational benefits alone have been such a blessing to allow me to have more financial freedom at this point in my education.”

When Wilson enlisted in 2009, she still had five months until her high school graduation. She said she just couldn’t wait. In 2011 she enrolled at Western Kentucky University. A short three years later she earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in psychology.

As a Soldier and student, Wilson was eligible to use state and federal tuition assistance programs to help with her education. All thanks to a desire at a young age to join the military.

“Since I was a young girl I always wanted to be a pastry chef, a pilot in the Air Force, and a psychologist,” she said. “Growing up, I kept growing a passion for helping others, kept loving sweets, and kept longing to be a Soldier.”

Wilson grew up listening to stories from her grandparents who served in the military and a cousin in the Marine Corps. So it wasn’t a surprise to anyone when she enlisted.

As the youngest child, with two older brothers, Wilson said from an early age she had to be tough. When one of those brothers, Staff Sgt. Ethan Wilson joined the Guard in 2008, she realized her path.

“It became clear that the Guard was my calling so that I could spend more time with family, obtain an education, and contribute to serving this nation,” she said. “I have always been a tough female but the military gave me that much more motivation to prove myself.”

As an 18-year-old, Wilson enlisted as a communications systems operator, partially because of a fondness of electronics and her high ASVAB score. She thought it was a great fit, until the Army phased out the MOS and she re-classed in 2013 as a multichannel transmission system operator. It was just an upgrade, in a highly technical and challenging job series.

“It is really intense completing a higher-level degree, all the while being an integral part of a headquarters company,” she said. “Both roles are very demanding, and leave little time for errors. It honestly is like living two different lives. Both push me to take on more responsibilities and act under pressure to ensure that each mission or assignment is completed on time to the best of my ability.

“My training in the Guard has greatly influenced and shaped me into the person that I am today. I am able to successfully function while understanding that no matter what exhaustion or stress I am currently experiencing, I just have to keep trucking on to accomplish what is necessary because tomorrow will always be a new day.”

Leaders in the 149th BSB have taken notice of the academic NCO. They vouch for her work as a Soldier and the respect she has earned in the battalion. Capt. David Short commands Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 149th BSB, said he never has to worry about the unit’s communication plan with Wilson on the job.

“Sgt. Wilson is an outstanding Soldier who continuously performs above and beyond her rank in a very professional manner,” said Short. “We can rely on her capabilities of taking on greater responsibilities, and because of that, she has become a very respected NCO and is well-liked for her hard work.”

Immediately after her bachelor’s degree, Wilson started her Master’s in Psychology. Because she finished her first degree in three years, she had tuition assistance left over and put it toward her next step.

The more she learned about the military, the more she realized the growing need for those trained to help Service members deal with psychological concerns like PTSD.

“I was always a little helper, and really affected by people experiencing troubles and negative things in life. I think that just evolved into a desire to help in any way I could. When I learned of the help that could be achieved through the world of Psychology, I felt like I had found my calling and what would be my niche.

“Getting to the level to provide the caliber of help that I perceived as actually contributing and making a difference required me to obtain a certain level of credentials. These credentials can only be obtained at the doctoral level.”

Wilson began her doctorate in August of 2016. While she has expended her state and federal benefits as a Soldier, she is continuing her education at WKU where she qualifies for a special military tuition rate that will save her a considerable amount of money.

She knows her calling is sending her to a tough job, but Sarah Wilson has embraced the challenges to be the best version of herself.

“In the end, my military and educational experiences have both shaped me to be an assertive, strong, educated woman who does not see a cap on the things that I can accomplish.”

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