There’s a warrior within every medic

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- I have developed a habit of introducing myself as an aerospace physiologist or, more recently, as the 31st Medical Operations Squadron commander. This tends to generate discussions related to my specialty (hypoxia, aircraft decompression, training devices, spatial disorientation, mishap investigation, etc.) or the services provided by our squadron (ambulance services, pediatrics, family health, internal medicine, immunizations, mental health, family advocacy, ADAPT, education and developmental intervention services and physical therapy).

But that's not who I am; it's what I do.

Who I am is an American Airman.

Our shared Air Force core values and commitment to serve our fellow Americans in the defense of our great nation are the ties that bind us together in our task and purpose. At Aviano, this is manifest in the 31st Fighter Wing's mission to deter aggression, defend U.S. and NATO interests, and develop Aviano. This is where your individual identity impacts decision making, time allocation and leadership style. If your identity lies in your specialty, you will think and act differently than if you identify first as an American Airman.

This is a challenge for medics who work away from the main installation, but it’s one we accept. You see, it’s difficult to think of yourself as a warrior when you’re administering shots to a screaming two-year old. It’s not easy to focus on your mission to fly, fight, and win while reviewing 10 years of a patient’s record. It’s hard to see yourself as America’s sword and shield while sitting in a staff meeting to develop medical awareness campaigns. We don’t often feel like sentries or avengers when conducting blood draws at 4 a.m. on a Sunday.

But we are American Airmen first. Our calm demeanor, friendly appearance and customer-service orientation belies the warrior spirit in each of us. Our command team reminds us every day that the 31st Medical Group exists to support the wing through reliability, deployability and community.

These three mission aspects guarantee our superior healthcare to enable Team Aviano members to deliver decisive and reliable combat power. We can’t afford to falter or fail because you and your families’ health, and sometimes very lives, are in our hands – and that is a mission we take seriously.

We may be medics, but we are also warriors, ready to answer the call, even if it’s just on the appointment line.