The 39th Medical Group's Flight Medicine Section: People, PRAP and Perseverance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexis Sandoval
  • 39th Air Base Wing

Airmen across the U.S. Air Force face various challenges at each location they are stationed at such as financial, familial or even where the base is situated. However, the location and mission of the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base can be seen as especially difficult. It's a one-year tour in the country of Türkiye with a surety mission that cannot fail. Due to this, stressors from work and home escalate to a higher level. So, how do Airmen and their shops take on these challenges?

The medical technicians and doctors at the 39th Medical Operations Group Flight Medicine section rely on camaraderie, partnership and teamwork to strengthen the 39th ABW mission. Together they ensure that Airmen across base are healthy, ready, reliable and responsive.

“The shared stress builds a camaraderie between us,” said Tech Sgt. Alex Arrieta, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron independent duty medical technician. “We lean on each other to get the mission done which is pretty cool.”

Flight Medicine clinics typically serve members on flying status and air traffic controllers, but at Incirlik they also filled in as the Personnel Reliability Assurance Program (PRAP) clinic.

“We're continuously monitoring all of the members that are on Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) status or authorized-use-of-force status,” said Maj. Kim Liebert, 39 OMRS flight commander. “And with those folks for PRP, we're responsible for actually doing their medical certification when they come in, and every time that they come in to medical we're screening them for any type of suitability factors, such as distracting pains, that can affect their ability to accomplish the mission.”

Liebert explained how task saturated her section can be and how it can be overwhelming. Given Incirlik's unique mission as well as being a short tour, it is a difficult mission set to acclimate to if you are not used to it.

“You need to know what you're doing and need to be able to just jump in and just go,” said Liebert. “And sometimes that's a little bit challenging for some folks.”

In addition to their primary duties and associated difficulties, they also have additional duties, and both personal and professional challenges that continuously test their resilience. Despite these pressures, the Flight Medicine section continues to push forward because of the passion they have for the job.

“I believe that even though we’re all pretty stressed more now than ever, we still love our jobs,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Oder, 39 OMRS flight and operational medical technician. “I know that sounds sappy, but it's true. We just want to care for people's needs the best we can in order for them to perform their jobs safely and to enjoy their personal lives as well.”

Balanced and healthy work environments aren't given; they're earned through hard work and the conscious choice to cultivate a healthy atmosphere.

“We all have our struggles, we all have our issues,” said Arrieta. “The fact that we all come together and actually discuss them to solve them amongst ourselves makes it so much easier for us to overcome those struggles.”

It takes good leaders to nourish and maintain healthy environments, and according to Oder, Maj. Liebert is an example of a good leader.

“Maj. Liebert is so task-saturated as a provider and a flight commander,” said Oder, “but you can walk into her office and even if she's busy, she will stop and address what you have to talk to her about, whether it's personal or work related. She will be there for you.”

However, leadership can only do so much and it's on the Airmen in each shop that continue to set an example for each other. Arrieta and Oder are credited by Liebert for ensuring fellow Airmen do not stray from excellence. Both make an effort to ensure that the Airmen they lead are heard, understood and cared for.

All in all, what drives the mission at Flight Medicine, per Liebert, are three simple things: people, PRAP and pizza.