Reserve MSC career field proves hard to the 'corps': ASTS officers set the stage (Part 3 of 4)

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Many Air Force Medical Service Corps officers wore stripes before swapping them for the brass; so it shouldn't be a shock that Maj. Kelli Bowen and 1st. Lt. Paul Hall served stints as enlisted Airmen before they received their commissions, and joined the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron here.

The medical officers said their enlisted experiences played key roles in boosting their growth as MSC officers.

"I feel what makes me the MSC I am today (are) my prior-enlisted and life experiences (which provided) the ability to relax, adapt and overcome any situation presented to me," Hall, the Readiness Flight deputy commander for ASTS, said. "I'm able to relate to--and mentor--my enlisted personnel, and understand where they're coming from, as well as where they're trying to go with their careers."

"I've been in the military since 1998, and came in as (an) enlisted medical administrative technician," said Bowen, the 446th ASTS Operations Support Flight commander. "My enlisted time was critical and valuable in my development as an officer. In my 15 years of observing MSC officers, the most successful ones have led by example, are collaborative in seeking resolution, and adapt to their environments."

Hall, a Lacey Wash. resident, said the MSC career field demands them to be the jacks of all trades. The job isn't cut-and-dry, nor is it typical whichever unit they're assigned to. MSC officers handle the administrative, operational, and logistical portions of ASTS's war and peacetime missions.

In the deployed environment, the MSC officer takes more of an operational, as well as administrative role, Bowen said. For example--on the administrative side--the MSC documents and tracks five inbound patients on an H-60 Blackhawk Helicopter, which is due to land in 15 minutes. On the operational side, the MSC coordinates with the aeromedical evacuation crew, triages patients, and transports them to the operating room.

Bowen supported contingency missions at Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"When it comes to the mission, these two experiences were similar and different," said the wife and mother of three. "In Germany, you were focusing on patient care precision of the mission in a relatively safe environment, and basic needs of sleep and food were met. In Afghanistan, you're providing the same mission; however, the safety of your troops, and the safety of transporting patients on the flightline, while under attack, reprioritizes your focus as a leader." Another differing factor is the level of care the patients were in when, she said. In Germany they had already been through the first or second stage of care. But in Afghanistan many were only at the first entry point.

"The number of troops an MSC officer can manage throughout their career can vary greatly--depending on the mission and location," she said. "I have seen MSCs command close to 200 troops at a time."

Hall, who served eight years as a pararescue Airman, isn't a stranger to supporting contingencies.

"I have been (on temporary duty orders) several times in support of the training mission and readiness exercises," Hall said. "Our unit was selected to participate in (Operation Global Medic)--a joint medical exercise designed to simulate an actual deployment."

During the exercise, he took charge of a 25-bed medical-treatment facility, which housed more than 180 patients, said Hall, who's a full-time medical technician here at the Madigan Army Medical Center. He also directed more than 10 aeromedical evacuation missions over the course of five days.

Leadership from Air Force Reserve Command took notice in his performance, and picked him to train other Airmen in the medical field.

"Recently, I was hand selected by AFRCs Sustainment Training to Advance Readiness Skills program director as an instructor, teaching (other MSC officers and medical administrative specialists) readiness skills verifications at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas," Hall said.

Bowen said there are numerous possibilities for MSC officers.

The MSC officer plays a dynamic and challenging role, which provides several opportunities, the Portland resident said. They include administrative roles in areas, like medical facilities and medical research. Management fields, include medical resources, patient affairs, medical facility repair, and medical recruiting. Other opportunities include aeromedical evacuation, war and emergency planning, codification and construction, health systems design, data systems design.

Opportunities aside, Bowen and Hall always boil it down to their number-one priority--the mission.

"Taking care of our wounded warriors is our most rewarding opportunity," Hall said. "Preparing wounded Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines for flight and providing them with treatment in their time of need is a high visibility mission."

"The bottom line is patient care, and getting the wounded home safely for the next level of care," Bowen said. "I can't honestly think of a more important job than taking care of our wounded warriors."

(Editor's note: This is Part Three of a series on the Air Force Reserve, Medical Service Corps officer career field. Get ready to read the diverse stories of some of the MSC officer Citizen Airmen from the 446th Airlift Wing's aeromedical evacuation unit in the coming weeks.)