“…Things just got more difficult, but I knew that priority wise, I never wanted to stop serving…”
Even as the first female in her family to serve in the military, 17-year-old Keri never second-guessed her decision to enlist into the Florida Army National Guard.
Now U.S. Air Force Capt. Keri Lord-Morales is deployed to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, Ramstein Air Base, as a flight nurse and instructor.
And what a journey it was for Lord-Morales in the years between Army enlisted unit supply specialist to her dream job as a flight nurse.
As a unit supply specialist in logistics, Lord-Morales had limited experience in the medical field besides annual combat lifesaver training and, at that time, her civilian job as a veterinary technician. During a deployment to Afghanistan in 2004, however, she was given an opportunity that would change her entire outlook on life.
“I was one of three females at my deployed location, and the only one with any medical experience,” stated Lord-Morales. “Given the different culture over [in Afghanistan], it’s really important that females care for females, so I worked a lot in the clinic. I saw all sorts of injuries, trauma injuries specifically. I knew right then and there that this was my call to nursing.”
After returning from her life-changing deployment, Lord-Morales finished her eight-years of service in the Army. She then pursued her degree to be a trauma nurse, eventually continuing her education to become a nurse practitioner.
“When I set out to be a nurse, I knew I wanted to provide advanced care,” claimed Lord-Morales. “I wanted to be so proficient at it and I really wanted to work in trauma. I think I pushed myself harder because I knew what was at stake. Not for me but for [my patients].”
While also being a mother and working as trauma nurse, Lord-Morales finished her master’s degree within one year and joined the Air Force Reserves as a flight nurse with the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Soon after, her husband’s job moved the family to Lima, Peru, with her six-week-old son and six-year-old daughter in tow.
“Before we left, I hurried up and got my qualifications back so that I could travel back and forth,” said Lord-Morales. “I was traveling back and forth with my son and I flew for about eight months of my son’s life.”
After traveling back and forth from Florida with her son to continue her uniformed service for eight months, Lord-Morales took a brief hiatus from flying. She quickly discovered the Individual Mobilization Augmentee program, or IMA, within the Air Force Reserves. Lord-Morales then took a position as a nurse practitioner at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
But, she always knew she was meant to fly.
“That’s just what I loved, so I did the IMA position for a year and went back to flying,” said Lord-Morales. “It is one of the most rewarding jobs in the military and I absolutely love it,” she added.
While traveling back and forth to continue her uniformed service, Lord-Morales also accepted a job as a nurse practitioner in the U.S. Embassy in Lima.
“It’s a neat population to serve and in a resource-limited environment it was quite interesting,” said Lord-Morales. “As you can imagine, providing care in a local community you know nothing about can be challenging.”
During her time in Peru, she has paved the way for the COVID-19 vaccine program at the U.S. Embassy and formed a casualty response team based on her prior experiences.
“You always have to go into something and ask yourself, ’how do I want to leave it when I’m gone?’” said Lord-Morales. “So, I set goals and said ’okay this is where I think we need some changes, I think I can make an impact’ and then I just put my eyes on it and I obtained it.”
Lord-Morales humbly says that the reward is to give to her community.
“Whether that’s providing medical care, knowledge or education so that people can provide care for themselves,” said Lord-Morales. “For instance, teaching folks how to do first aid training and enabling them to care for their community or someone else.”
Lord-Morales professes that, despite honorable roles as an Airman, wife and nurse, she is most proud that her nine-year-old daughter and three-year-old son see her achieve these amazing feats.
“What’s more rewarding is having my kids see it,” said Lord-Morales. “Especially having a little girl and hearing her say ’hey that’s my mom! Having my nine-year-old daughter out there and being that example for her so that she can carry that around feels great.”
The 10th EAEF is a deployed, Total Force unit responsible for inter-theater AE operations in support of U.S. Transportation Command taskings in the European Command, Central Command and Africa Command areas of responsibility. The flight is attached to the 721st Mobility Support Squadron, one of ten squadrons under the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing. Both the squadron and wing headquarters are tenant units on Ramstein AB.