Ramstein captain receives flight nurse of the year award

Capt. Pamela Banks from the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron on Ramstein was the recent recipient of the 2010 Wilma “Dolly” Vinsant Flight Nurse of the Year award. Captain Banks was recognized during the Commemorative Air Force Airshow 2010 at the Midland International Airport in Texas.

“She received the award for demonstrating courage, flexibility and superior nursing leadership during 53 sorties, transporting more than 350 patients supporting European Command, Central Command, African Command and Northern Command theaters,” said Col. John Budd, 86th Operations Group commander.

Over multiple missions, her leadership assured the seamless delivery of medical care to ensure the safe transport and delivery of her patients.

“Captain Banks’ enduring commitment to high quality patient care and impeccable mission management demonstrates the highest standards of professionalism and airmanship and fully embodies the spirit of the Dolly Vinsant Award,” Colonel Budd said.

“A flight nurse in the United States Air Force is a privilege and an honor,” Captain Banks said. “It’s been an experience that I will remember for a lifetime. This job allows me to mentor Airman and NCOs, maintain my excellent nursing skills and provide advance care to our critically injured warriors. The challenges I’ve faced in the aeromedical evacuation world keeps me humble, grateful and, most of all, proud to serve in the USAF.”

Wilma Vinsant Shea was born on Feb. 17, 1917, in San Benito, Texas, and grew up the only child of Dr. William and former nurse Nell Vinsant. Because of her doll-like features and small size, she was nicknamed “Dolly,” which stayed with her as an adult. Dolly became a registered nurse and put her skill to work as a flight nurse, taking advantage of the opportunity to travel. Being determined, the 5-foot, 100 pound Dolly was determined and qualified for the air evacuation nurse corps. She completed the rigorous training and graduated from the first flight nurse class of the Army Air Forces School of Air Evacuation at Bowman Field, Ky., in 1943. She was stationed in England and spent the next two years in the midst of combat. She worked on board rescue flights that took the wounded soldiers from the battlefields to hospitals behind the lines.

On April 14, 1945, Dolly was killed in action over Germany, one of only three flight nurses known to have died in World War II. She is the only woman buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Margraten, Holland. For her heroism, she earned the Air Medal, Red Cross Medal, a Special Citation from President Harry Truman and a posthumous Purple Heart.

The Dolly Vinsant Flight Nurse of the Year Award was established by the Confederate Air Force (Renamed Commemorative Air Force) and pays tribute to Dolly. The CAF states that the recipient of this award would put patient care above self and will volunteer, at great personal risk, to fly missions in order to bring caring help to ill or injured military personnel. The recipient must also perform aircrew duties on a live air evacuation mission and must have contributed significantly to in-flight care and evacuation with a specific patient or specific mission or event.

(Provided by Nightingale News and 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs)