167th Airlift Wing Seeks Health Care Professionals

  • Published
  • By Sherre Grebenstein
  • 167th Airlift WIng
A fourth-year medical student at West Virginia University, Jennifer Robertson is interested in emergency medicine. And she also wants to serve her country.

Pair that with her love for flying and the Martinsburg native said she's seriously considering joining the West Virginia Air National Guard with an eye to serving with the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. The 28-year-old future doctor said serving as a medical officer with the unit would be a good fit with her plans.

Currently there are two doctors assigned as flight surgeons with the unit, Col. David L. Porter and Col. Harry Young. A total of five flight surgeon slots are available.

On Thursday afternoon, about 25 medical students and doctors from around the quad-state area attended a Health Care Professional Recruitment program hosted by base re- cruiters. Guests were given an overview of the need for medical officers in the ranks at the 167th Airlift Wing, a tour of the base as well as a flight on a C-5 Galaxy or an opportunity to test their skills in the aircraft's high-tech simulator.

Showcasing what the West Virginia Air National Guard can offer prospective medical officers from flight surgeons to optometrists, the goal was to emphasize not only the need for their skills and expertise, but the benefits available to them, said Master Sgt. Daniel Jenkins, supervisor for recruiting at the Martinsburg base.

From help with paying off medical school loans to starting a second career in the military for extra money and benefits, the advantages to serving as a doctor in the unit are numerous and wide-ranging. Those serving as a medical doctor enter service in the rank of captain.

"We wanted to show people what we have to offer," Jenkins noted.

Wing Commander Col. Roger L. Nye encouraged those attending the event to consider serving with the local unit. And if they were older than the maximum age of 42-years-old allowed for service, they could still spread the word to their younger counterparts in the medical field of the opportunities available.

"We ask that you come and serve your country with us," he said.

Brig. Gen. Eric Vollmecke, Chief of Staff for the West Virginia Air National Guard, recalled how when his younger brother, Kirk, a U.S. Army colonel deployed in Iraq, became ill, he received some of the finest medical care in the combat theatre.

"This is an opportunity to come and serve with the best," Vollmecke said. "We are giving you the opportunity to join the best military, best unit and best medical group in the field."

He told those attending the event that serving as a doctor in the military is a unique opportunity offering a positive experience.

"You will be able to see that you have made a difference," he said. "You can't put any money on that experience, it's priceless."

Dr. Orlando Agnir, a retired Martinsburg cardiologist, and his wife, Dr. Betty Agnir, a retired anistigiologist, were among a group who flew a C-5 Galaxy over Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and back to the 167th Airlift Wing by way of Philadelphia.

Dr. Orlando Agnir encourages medical students and doctors who qualify to take advantage of the program. He said it was a good opportunity.

Those who did not fly on the C-5 Galaxy were able to test their skills actually flying the massive aircraft in a base simulator. Many of the medical students who were given the
unique opportunity commented on the realism it offered.

Jessica Zalek, a third year medical student at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, said she's considering the opportunities that the West Virginia Air National Guard has to offer.

"It sounds like a lot of great opportunities," said the 28-year-old Frederick, Md., resident.

Fellow third year medical student Ryan Horsley at the school in Lewisburg, W.Va., said the opportunity to become a flight surgeon is both "interesting and appealing."

"I kind of always wanted to be in the military," the 23-year-old Shepherdstown man said.

Having the opportunity to serve both his country and state in such a capacity has Horsley contemplating a future with the West Virginia Air National Guard.

Anyone interested in obtaining more information about becoming a flight surgeon should contact Master Sergeant Jenkins at 304-616-5386.