Utah National Guardsmen

The people in your neighborhood who serve.

Jenny Willden Sep 1, 2017

National Guardsmen are bankers, pilots, teachers — regular people from all walks of life who voluntarily serve their country and communities. In the National Guard, many weekends are spent training, deployments are served far from family, and life can be disrupted at a moment’s notice when you are activated by the governor or president.

Despite this chaotic schedule, Utahns like Danielle Dao and Justin Ascione choose to make a difference by serving in Utah’s Air and Army National Guards.

Danielle Dao

Manager and Immunization Expert

Danielle Dao works full time for the American Red Cross as the service to the Armed Forces and international services manager. She manages Red Cross resources to make service members’ lives easier: emergency communications, pre-deployment briefings, reconnection workshops and confidential counseling referrals.

“If veterans, active-duty service members or retirees locally need assistance, financial or housing, we can connect them to our resources,” Dao says.

Dao also juggles a career as the noncommissioned officer in charge of immunizations with the Utah Air National Guard. “I run the immunizations program, and we immunize the whole base,” says Dao, who typically works just one weekend a month, but also assists during busy times. “It’s really fun because I get to see everybody since they have to see me for their shots.”

Before joining the guard, Dao was active-duty Air Force from 2007-2015. When her husband accepted a full-time job with the Utah Air National Guard, she transferred to the guard as well and loves it, despite challenges. “We trade off playing the single parent part sometimes,” Dao says. “My husband is deploying for a couple of months, and I’ll be taking the kids.”

The cross-connections between careers helps Dao balance the busyness. “I can bring Red Cross resources back to my guard unit and let them learn about alternative informational resources,” Dao says. “With my medical piece, I can help out with programs at the Red Cross.”

Most with her busy life would not voluntarily serve, but Dao soldiers on. “I love being a medic and seeing our work played out on a day-to-day basis, especially our humanitarian work,” she says. “Supporting the mission keeps me going.”

Justin Ascione

Banker and Army Medic

Justin Ascione excels in his career as an account relationship officer in private banking at Zions Bank, but he always wanted to serve in the military. He joined the Utah Army National Guard in 2013 as a way to give back to his community while furthering his training and working toward educational goals. He acts as a health care specialist, or medic.

“A lot of what we do is detach to other training missions and make sure those troops are healthy and can conduct their missions in an excellent manner,” Ascione says. “It’s real-world medical experience.”

Through this work, he’s also learned beneficial life skills. “Having a greater idea of how people react to stressful situations and learning to work under pressure have been incredibly helpful,” he says.

While his day-to-day guard duties do not directly translate to his career, Ascione believes the soft skills improve his work performance. “I’ve learned to work well within a team,” he says. “The Guard is a team, and Zions Bank is a team. If you don’t have the team on the same page, you’re not going to achieve the level of excellence needed to be an elite unit or an elite company.”

Ascione says he couldn’t manage it all without the backing of his employer. “Zions Bank has been recognized for its excellent treatment of service members,” he says. “There’s a community of support here.”

Community is also a big part of what keeps him serving. “It’s amazing the connections you make,” he says. “You get to know people with different views, and you have their backs.”

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