An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Reports from the Front: Commander, flight nurse performs life-saving operations overseas

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
While growing up on the north side of Chicago, one young yet shy, aspiring nurse craved adventure but wasn't quite sure how to get it. That chance would reveal itself when she learned she could join the Air Force and be a flight nurse.

With her most recent deployment behind her, Col. Barbara Jones, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander, realizes that her career choice has brought her exactly where she wanted to be.

"I fell in love with the possibilities of the Air Force. One thing led to another and the opportunities just started coming my way," she said, now 22 years later.

Recently returned from Southwest Asia as commander for the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Colonel Jones said she strived to make the most of every situation that arose under her command.

She was responsible for ensuring execution of the EAES air tasking orders in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

Her AES crews transported both battled injured and non-battled injured patients to and from areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to supporting operations in the sky, Colonel Jones was responsible for the day to day ground support operations of her squadron.

"On deployment, I got to fly a lot and take care of many patients," she said. "Any day flying - taking care of patients, talking to them, relieving their pain, giving them hope - was better than any day in the office. I am very fortunate in the job I have because I can do that and be a commander. I really enjoy doing both - being a commander and a flight nurse."

Anyone who has found themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of being injured in a combat situation knows just how important these medics are to efforts getting done on the ground.

Colonel Jones recalled circumstances when the patients' conditions were dire, but the EAES nurses and technicians stepped in and did their job so well they saved their lives.
"It's a testament to what our medical community is doing out there," she said. "You want to know why the 43rd AES exist; it exists to pick those patients up, transport them and sustain their health to the next location, where they will get more definitive care. We are a bright and shining capability for our war fighters. When we're on the job, we've got their back. It's amazing to be part of that."

The AES performs this capability with painstaking attention to detail.
Colonel Jones explained how during their scheduled missions, the AES crew goes through their checklist line by line in order to be extra prepared. Some of these various details involve identifying each patient and discussing what their patients' needs might be, reviewing procedures, checking the medical equipment prior to flight, and outfitting the aircraft like a hospital to ensure maximum care is given to the patients.

The colonel said it was not uncommon to have eight stops on the missions scheduled for Iraq.

In order for all of these patients to receive proper care, the AES members had to make the mission top priority. A mentality the colonel said her crew had no trouble adopting.

"The fact that everyone was about the mission was inspiring," she said. "When you hear the phrase 'Mission First,' it's a little harder to see that when you're in the States. But when you're out there, it means we are going to drop everything or you're going to work day and night to take care of the mission. The deployers with me had that mindset. I never had to ask twice for my staff to work extra, to show up early or to stay late. It was all about the mission, and that to me, was remarkable."

Colonel Jones also credits the families of deployed members as being instrumental to the war efforts being accomplished overseas.

"Having deployed, I know acutely what our families do to support their loved ones who deploy," she said. "I know they have no say in our deployments, but I surely appreciate the support and tolerance they show their loved one. My unit deploys a lot, and often back to back. And when we're home we do a lot of exercises. I didn't need this deployment to tell me how valuable our families are; it just made it all the more evident.

Overall, the colonel is proud of the time she and her team spent performing their mission.

"We worked very hard," she said. "I believe my team and I left it better that we found it, for sure. Every time I work in a unit - whether duty stations from the past or my current job - I take a lot of pride in ownership. I just hope that those things we have put in place are sustained because it's the right thing for the war fighter. I'm extremely pleased, extremely proud of our accomplishments, and I was very privileged to have the opportunity to serve out there."