Reserve MSC career field proves hard to the 'corps': Medical officers get physical (Part 2 of 4)

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Cleveland Hayes and his unofficial protégé, Jeffrey Johnson both had active-duty experience in the medical field before receiving commissions as 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron health administrators.

When they took the oath of office, they committed themselves to providing support for their leadership, so they can deliver preventative medicine capability and keep 446th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen mission ready.

Making sure wing Reservists are medically deployable might not come an easy task without operational and administrative oversight.

While most of the 446th AMDS providers, including doctors, nurses, and medical technicians concentrate on patient care, the Medical Service Corps officers gear up for the behind-the-scenes battles of operating, scheduling, and maintaining their unit's training and workflow.

"I wanted to make changes," said Johnson, the 446th AMDS director of Clinical Operations and a second lieutenant. "I wanted to make a difference, and this is definitely one way to do it."

Johnson, originally from Kentucky, is the most recent addition to the unit's MSC force. He said he sought his commission in order to make a more powerful impact in his unit.

Hayes, a major and a Medical Readiness officer, is likely to cash in Johnson's aspirations.

"We make sure everybody's medically fit to fight. If a Reservist isn't fit for duty, then they can't deploy or do any off-base TDYs," said the Meridian, Miss. native. "On the UTA weekend, we do about 200 (physicals). As an MRO, the challenge becomes how I fit our Medical Readiness training requirements into the high-ops tempo and physicals."

Johnson said the same rules apply to AMDS members when it comes to readiness.

"Our mission is to do the physicals here, but we have to have people who are ready to deploy. There's requirements just as any other career field," he said.

Hayes, Johnson, and squadron MSC teammates Lt. Col. Robert Mayer and Maj. James McManus, ensure they remedy the burden from the other medical staff by taking on the operational and administrative duties to make certain the unit completes their required training, so they can concentrate on providing adequate attention for their patients.

"There's four of us in AMDS," Johnson said. "The other three have been in this squadron as long as I have been, so the experience there is wonderful. I can lean on them for scenarios, experience, expectations and questions."

Hayes adopted a leadership method from his active-duty days, which he utilizes to make sure the unit keeps to date and stays in compliance with their operational and training obligations--delegating greater responsibilities to his troops.

"When I'm in charge, I force enlisted people to make decisions," said Hayes, an Education professor at the University of Laverne in Calif. "I think this is why the AMDS is so successful--because people are allowed to really shine in their expertise. You have to give them opportunities."

This recognition type of mindset keeps the MSCs from relishing in the squadron's successes.

"It's the good people behind the scenes who are making that happen," Johnson said. "We'll get it done. I've always said if this unit had to deploy, I'd totally feel comfortable. You've got to be comfortable and feel safe with the people you're with."

Hayes provides the case in point--

Before the squadron's Health Safety Inspection in January, people went out there absolutely dedicated to make sure the unit was successful, he said.
MSC officer oversight is what helps organize those inspections and exercises and keeps chaos at bay.

"If MSCs didn't show up to something, like a mass-casualty exercise, it wouldn't happen," Hayes, a 21-year Air Force veteran said. "It just wouldn't happen."

Hayes and Johnson both credit their prior-enlisted experiences in helping them become officers and leaders.

"It totally helps," Johnson said. "It gives me more experience. I had eight years of public health, and then I did another five years as a (medical) tech. I think that's probably one of the reasons why (squadron leadership) gave me the Clinical Operations title--because I was working in the trenches."

Hayes' enlisted experience also stems from the medical field.

By working closely with MSC officers as an active-duty patient administrator, he picked up some leadership habits, ha said.

"In the Reserve, most of the MSCs are prior-enlisted," Hayes said. "You don't have to be in a leadership position to lead."

Johnson said his full-time position as a program analyst in the Federal Aviation Administration's Aerospace Medicine department helps make him a more complete MSC package.

"I do a lot of the (same) aerospace medicine stuff we do here on the weekends over at the FAA as well," he said. "We're looking at civilian fliers' records and deciding if we can give 'em special issuance or waivers or not."

Even though he and his MSC partners continue to neutralize the weekend chaos, Johnson prepares for obstacles that may lie ahead.

"My expectations are for us to stay status quo," Johnson said. "With all the changes and people moving in and out (of the squadron), budget problems, and the Air Force doing a whole lot more with a whole lot less--just getting the mission done is pretty much at my forefront right now."

(Editor's note: This is Part Two 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 staging, and aeromedical evacuation units in the coming weeks.)