NEWS | Feb. 10, 2021

VNG preventive medicine officer talks vaccine, military service and diversity

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti JFHQ Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. -- In high school, after high school and in college, 1st Lt. Andrew Curtis thought about joining the military. Each time, he was dissuaded by friends and family. Then, at 30, as a husband and father of three, he learned about the National Guard. He wanted a change of pace from his corporate career, and joining the Virginia National Guard seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

“You can serve your state and you can serve your country, and that’s just super unique,” Curtis explained about what led him to serve in the National Guard. 

Curtis joined in 2013 and while his background qualified him for a direct commission, he came in as a 09S. This means he started his career in the Virginia National Guard as an enlisted Soldier, worked his way through basic training and then on through Officer Candidate School to earn his commission. 

“Along the way, I realized I really have a passion to serve the state of Virginia and our country,” he explained. 

Now, he’s a preventive health officer assigned to Medical Command and is currently supporting the effort to vaccinate the Virginia National Guard against COVID-19. 

“This gives me a nice change of pace and I get to directly serve our Soldiers and help improve the health of our force,” said Curtis, who works as a strategy director for Anthem, a job that he says requires “sitting in meetings, tracking action items and chasing down executives.”

Curtis says he received his first dose of the vaccine back in January, and recently received the second and final dose. He experienced mild symptoms, like arm soreness. He said getting the vaccine is voluntary for Virginia National Guard personnel, but explained it’s an important step on the road back to normalcy. 

“Overall it’s not been bad and the bigger thing we’re moving toward is herd immunity,” he explained. “The more people who have either had COVID or are vaccinated for COVID, the more people who don’t have either are protected.” 

As Curtis makes his own historic mark in the fight across COVID-19, he said African American History Month means a lot to him. 

“As a Black person, there really shouldn’t be just one month, it shouldn’t just be our history, because it’s a shared  history across America,” Curtis said. But, he said, having a dedicated time to recognize the contributions of African Americans throughout history is important. “Being able to have a month called out to talk about and recognize those who have come before us, those who are trailblazers and those who are future leaders, I think it’s really important,.”

Over the years of his military service, his family has grown to include six children. As a family, they recognize African American History Month by watching different movies and talking about the many Black leaders who have left an indelible mark on American culture, history and society. 

“If you don’t have diverse leadership, a diverse force, then you’re actually reducing your effectiveness and capabilities long term,” Curtis said. 

February is African American History Month and this month, the Virginia National Guard is highlighting stories from the Soldiers, Airmen, VDF members and civilians who make up our organization.