Air Force medical leaders reflect on 2022 and the year ahead

  • Published
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

From continued support of COVID-19 patients in civilian hospitals to advanced training to ensure operational success, Air Force medics notched a lot of success in 2022, and leaders are confident in their readiness for the future.

Notable moments from 2022

When asked to identify stand out moments from 2022, many Air Force medical leaders found it challenging to choose one, but all highlighted medical Airmen who do their jobs at military treatment facilities, in operational units, and deployed environments while navigating ongoing Military Health System transformations and evolving medical readiness demands.

For Maj. Gen. John J. DeGoes, U.S. Air Force Deputy Surgeon General, it was the ability for medics to support various mission sets amid the continuing pandemic.

“One of the biggest accomplishments happened early 2022 in supporting our nation during COVID-19 surges,” said DeGoes. “While that surge was less severe than the initial variant we all saw in 2020, there were still so many infections that overwhelmed our civilian hospitals. By mid-February, there were close to 500 Air Force medics in 25 medical support teams in stressed civilian hospitals across this country. Our medics were on the front lines of a once-in-a-100-year pandemic, so I am particularly proud to be a part of the Air Force Medical Service that kept all of the key fly, fight and win mission going, kept all the training going, and kept Airmen and Guardians ready.”

Read more: Air Force medics continue deployments to civilian hospitals and care facilities

DeGoes was also impressed to see the MHS transition go from concept to action and how navigating the demands from the Defense Health Agency as well as the Department of the Air Force can be done effectively.

“This past year, I had the opportunity to go out the Hurlburt Field at the 1st Special Operations Medical Group, and despite the many challenges folks at medical groups are working to address, the positive attitude of every member there was hard to ignore,” said DeGoes. “As I toured the their facility and it was clear that they are executing the transition very well. It is gratifying to see an MTF clearly making the partnership between the Air Force and DHS work.”

Building and sustaining partnerships was also a highlight for Brig. Gen. John R. Andrus, Commander, 711th Human Performance Wing, which is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“One of our biggest accomplishments was standing up our first-ever formal Enlisted Critical Care Course through our partnership with Kettering Health Network, Soin Medical Center, and contractor partners in Dayton, Ohio,” said Andrus. “Through this new partnership, we expect to train approximately 100 critical care technicians per year, further strengthening our mission of producing ready medics.”

Read more: AFRL leaders, Kettering Health network celebrate new Enlisted Critical Care Training Center at Soin Medical Center

Medical readiness also took on a new meaning with the conceptualization of the multi-capable medical Airman where medics will need to be ready to work beyond the bounds of their specific specialty or duty title when called upon. The importance of this concept being seen in action was a particularly significant for Chief Master Sgt. Dawn M. Kolczynski, Chief, Medical Enlisted Force, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General.

“I received a message from a public health Airman that was out on a run one day and heard a call for help,” said Kolczynski. “His training prepared him to feel confident in his ability to take action and ultimately save a life. This is exactly what we mean by ready medics. We want them to be ready when called upon in all of their day-to-day actions. He was so proud of himself, but more importantly, he was thankful that he was prepared. I was incredibly grateful that he shared his story because it validated that the changes are becoming foundational to what it means to be an Air Force medic.”

For Maj. Gen. Sharon R. Bannister, Director, Medical Operations, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, it is a privilege to see those outside the AFMS recognized the hard work of Air Force medics.

“I had the honor of representing our Air Force Surgeon General at the Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards Gala to help present Staff Sgt. Jasmine Krapf, 60th Surgical Operation Squadron respiratory therapist, her award,” said Bannister. “Krapf’s story of her heroic service while deployed to the Hamid Karzai International Airport during the withdrawal from Afghanistan reminded me of why I dedicated more than 30 years of service to the Air Force. Serving beside some of the best sons and daughters our country has to offer is an honor and a privilege. Krapf used her Air Force training to save lives without hesitation - yet she had tears in her eyes as she shared her experience. Like so many of our medics, she not only has the skills to do the job, but the compassion to connect to those she serves. Because of our medics, those who wear the uniform can perform the mission. It’s a special trust that doesn’t need to be earned. It is always there.”

Big takeaway from 2022

Across the Department of the Air Force, medical leaders reflected on how they would best describe 2022, the impact of various policies on the Airmen that do the job every day, and the important role each medic plays in supporting nation.

“Each year reminds me of how fortunate I am to wear the uniform while serving the most dedicated medics in the world,” said Bannister. “The meaning of each year of service has been one of gratitude and unwavering devotion as the work we do serves our nation’s sons and daughters who have raised their right hand to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the families who support them. I can’t imagine a more meaningful career.”

For the medics at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, this past year was focused on aligning with Air Force and Space force priorities to meet both current and future demands.

“Here at the 711th Human Performance Wing, we are uniquely positioned to use the synergy of our work in research, education and training, and consultation to solve the most impactful problems facing the military medical community today and the future,” said Andrus. “I was inspired by the way Air Force physicians have come together to improve their experience. In addition to meeting the demands of clinical, operational and administrative duties, Air Force physicians have published a new physician mentoring guide and a new squadron commanders guide, actively participated in addressing burnout, stood up diversity working groups, completely reworked career roadmap and launched a new Medical Corps mobile application to make all these resources easily available. I was inspired by seeing firsthand the effort and care that goes into placing each applicant into the right Graduate Medical Education program. I am inspired every day watching Air Force medics care for each other and for our warfighters. What a blessing to be able to get up every morning and serve.”

Looking ahead in 2023

Since the transition of MTFs to DHA, Air Force leaders have remained increasingly focused on readiness and will continue to roll out strategies to improve readiness for a new, dynamic operational environment.

“This year we will officially field our Medic-X strategic initiative to all Air Force medics, both officer and enlisted, regardless of their medical specialty, with the goal of improving patient outcomes in a denied and contested environment to ensure we are ready for future fights,” said Kolczynski.

“The 711th Human Performance Wing is rolling out its new strategic plan, which outlines our mission and its importance, as well as our goals and strategies to continue to provide support to our Airmen and Guardians in today’s complex environment,” said Andrus. “This plan serves to focus and prepare the wing to move forward and ensure the Air Force’s and Space Force’s greatest resource - its people - are equipped and enabled for the mission ahead.”

The demands on and the vision for Air Force medicine are clear and leaders are eager for the year ahead and the next steps toward meeting readiness goals and ensuring all medics have the right resources to face future challenges.

“As we continue to shift from the transition phase to execution phase of DHA’s management and administration of the MTFs, we will need to ensure the Air Force and DHA are structured properly to help ensure success,” said Bannister. “As the MTFs are both health care delivery and readiness platforms, the continued partnership between the AFMS and the DHA will be critical. We are grateful for the progress over the past few years under Army Lt. Gen. Ron Place’s leadership and look forward to working with the DHA’s newly appointed director, Army Maj. Gen. Telita Crosland, moving forward.”