Travel the World as a Military Nurse

military- nurse

I have always had a great deal of respect and fascination with the military.  My father was a medic during WWII and my aunt was a nurse in the Airforce for more than 20 years. She traveled to places like Greece, England, Turkey, and many other countries not to mention stations stateside.  Aunt Mary retired as a Full Colonel from the Airforce.  Since she joined right after nursing school she was able to put in 20 years.  She then retired in her early 40s with full benefits and retirement pay.   She could have continued to work as a nurse for many more years.

I myself chose to join the Army Reserves during the Vietnam War and was trained as a OR scrub tech.  I returned home after initial training and held a civilian job in the OR while I attended school to get my nursing diploma.  Once I graduated from nursing school I was able to get a direct commission as a 1st Lieutenant in my hospital reserve unit.  I completed 26 years in the Army National Guard/ Army Reserve to retire with the rank of Major.   It was the best decision I made since I now have a military retirement each month.  There are other benefits to enjoy as well.

Army, Navy or Air Force

How do you decide to go active duty or join the guard or reserve?  How do you decide Army, Navy, or Air Force?  In today’s military things have changed.  Women have many more opportunities to serve than in years past.

I joined the Army Reserve in 1971 during the Vietnam war with the hope of training as an operating room tech and working in a local hospital.  Later I attended trade school to become an LVN all paid for by the Army.  I decided on the army reserve since there was a reserve hospital unit close to the hospital where I worked at the time. During my training on active duty, I volunteered to go to Vietnam as a medic since there was an urgent need,  It was denied, at that time women were not allowed on the front line of battle.  The only females in the war zone at the time were military nurses.  Things have changed since that time.

Is Active Or Reserve/Guard Best For Me?

All military services offer basically the same in terms of benefits since they are all federally funded.  Take a look at this handout regarding Active vs. guard or reserve.     That said if you are wanting to wear the military uniform part-time and continue to live at home with your family,  guard and reserve works.  As a reservist, I was able to get married, have children continue with my education in nursing and get my commission as an army officer.  I also had many opportunities for advanced training in my specialty and travel to other duty stations for work in my field.

Active duty

The active military requires no explanation.  You decide the branch of service you want to join and contact a recruiter.  If you meet the requirements, and they have a position then you sign a 2 or 3 year commitment and you are on your way.  Commissioning will take place before you attend basic training for military officers in the branch you have chosen.  You will be assigned a duty station and work in your specialty.  The military offers many specialties the same as most civilian hospitals and clinics.  The duty assignments are based on the need of the military.  Duty assignments can be stateside or out of the country but when a transfer is required the government will coordinate and pay for your move.

Field Hospital set up for forest fire

Reserve or national guard

Finding a guard or reserve unit in your area that has an open nurse position might be difficult.  You will need to contact a recruiter for help.  You might also visit any hospital or medical unit in your area to find an open position.  Each unit is required to train one weekend a month and 2 weeks out of every year spent to maintain its ability to activate when needed. Training on the weekend and annual training will depend on the mission of the unit and required readiness.

I served 13 years in the Army Reserve and 13 years in the California Army National Guard.  During those years I experienced training and service that I could never have had in my civilian career.  A military helicopter ride to my weekend duty station was common.  We set up a field hospital and ran an operating room with field equipment. I was project officer for an exercise where we coordinated with agencies at the state and federal level for emergency preparedness.  I was mobilized to set up a field clinic to care for firefighters during forest fires.  Our unit was alerted after a serious earthquake. This training was unquestionably the most exciting and valuable of any I could have received in my civilian job.

Navy Opportunity

If any of this sounds exciting to you consider joining the Navy.  They are currently seeking active (full-time) and reserve (part-time) duty nurses. They are offering a $30K bonus for active and up to $20K for reserve. You must have a BSN with at least one year experience and be a US citizen. You have to be commissioned prior to age 42 for active and 48 for reserves. If you are interested in this wonderful opportunity email Judith Silva at

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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