Over 250 service members at the U.S. Army-commanded Landstuhl Regional Medical Center don a different military uniform and serve under the U.S. Air Forces’ 86th Medical Squadron, side-by-side with Army counterparts. In a testament of their proficiency, five of those Airmen were recently recognized as top performers in their fields across U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa command.
The Air Force Medical Service awards reflect the extraordinary quality of Air Force medics and recognize expertise, leadership and commitment to the Air Force mission and the Joint team, according to Air Force Medicine.
“It’s an honor (to be recognized), but it’s more about the people, the patients, our job, our mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Maranda Oliver, who was named the Cardiopulmonary Laboratory Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for USAFE-AFAFRICA. “Seeing each other’s perspective, as a Soldier and an Airman, has opened up my eyes and helped develop me better as an (non-commissioned officer),”
Oliver, the NCO in charge of LRMC’s pulmonary services and a native of Beaufort, South Carolina, is a two-time recipient of the award and echoes other Airmen’s sentiments, giving credit for their recognition to the Airmen and Soldiers they lead and who lead them.
“Anytime you win an award like this, it’s because of your troops,” said Tech. Sgt. Caige Chapman, an independent duty medical technician in LRMC’s Emergency Department. “Getting to pass on what I’ve learned to (junior) Airmen and Soldiers, to mentor them and step into that role (of leadership), I’ve been very fortunate.”
Chapman, NCO in charge of LRMC’s Fast Track Clinic in the hospital’s Emergency Department, followed in his father’s footsteps and was named USAFE-AFAFRICA’s Aerospace Medical Services Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for 2019.
“After graduating high school, I knew I wanted to do something in medicine, so I joined the (Air Force) Reserves to serve and get some experience,” said Chapman, a native of Castroville, Texas. “I got to work with an IDMT when I was a medic in the reserves so I knew (IDMT) is what I wanted to do. I was right. This is, in my opinion, the best job in the Air Force. I love what I do.”
Although each service member performs a different duty throughout LRMC, they share a common bond of joining the Air Force to make a difference.
Tech. Sgt. Nataliya Hampton, USAFE–AFAFRICA’s Diet Therapy NCO of the Year, originally enlisted to help pay for college tuition and was supposed to work as a loadmaster. She grew to love her job as a medical nutrition therapist through interactions with patients.
“It turned into something where I became passionate about helping people,” said Hampton, noncommissioned officer in charge of Medical Nutrition Therapy at LRMC’s Nutrition Care Division, and native of Novovolynsk, Ukraine.
As a junior service member, Hampton’s experience with a patient who refused to eat changed her outlook on her duties and the impact she can have on patients.
“Because I visited (the patient) on a daily basis, and just discussing what foods to eat, allowed (the patient) to see that someone showed interest. Then (the patient) did start eating and I still remember it was a grilled cheese and tomato soup,” said Hampton. “That was the first time the patient ate in three weeks.”
Senior Airman Kari Rowland, who was recognized as USAFE–AFAFRICA’s Diet Therapy Airman of the Year, took an interest in nutrition therapy after taking classes on the subject in college.
“(Hampton’s) been outstanding supervisor,” said Rowland, a native of Crestview, Florida. Serving at her first duty station in the Air Force, Rowland says she has many goals she wants to accomplish and is glad she has leaders like Hampton to help guide her.
After enlisting in 2008, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Taggart, a surgical services supervisor at LRMC, was originally slotted a military intelligence position but changed occupations to avoid delaying his opportunity to serve. A self-proclaimed sufferer of hemophobia, the fear of blood, Taggart states working in the operating room wasn’t at the top of his list, but he has adjusted to the demands of the job.
“The first procedure I ever went into, there was almost no blood, but just watching (the operation), my back was up against the wall and I’m like slithering down against the wall,” said Taggart, a Philadelphia native. “But, I’ve had the chance to shake the hands of many professionals in the healthcare industry who lead the way to implement and improve the standard of care for patients throughout the United States. Personally, managing the supply and equipment departments for the operating room has opened up many doors for me in the future and it’s been fun.”
According to Taggart, who was recognized as USAFE–AFAFRICA Surgical Service NCO of the Year, experiences throughout his career, from serving in Afghanistan to leading supply management for operating rooms in the United Kingdom, have readied him for increased responsibilities in fast-paced environments such as LRMC’s operating rooms.
“You bring these ideas and experiences from other bases and implement them, (in your current role),” said Taggart. “But it’s leadership and a lot of initiative, making sure things get done, following through with the (junior service members), helping them get to where you are, that gets you recognized.”