1. LIBRARY CATALOG
  2. DATABASES
  3. JOURNAL A-Z List
  4. SUBJECT GUIDES
  5. LIBRARY SERVICES

The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Cathy Illman Sykes, 2006

Search the Collection


AND   OR   EXACT PHRASE

Object ID: WV0340.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Cathy Illman Sykes’s background; nursing education; service in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2003; and the impact of her military career on the rest of her life.

Summary:

Sykes discusses her family; her decision to obtain a nursing degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), including the influence of Dean Eloise Lewis and her coursework; and her involvement in the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, including her acceptance, the classes; her decision to join the air force; the reaction of her family and friends; fraternization; and her field training at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

Sykes chiefly describes her various duty stations during her twenty-year career. She talks about working at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in the early 1980s in the nurse internship program and the surgical and intensive care units, and about attending a military indoctrination program for medical officers. Sykes discusses her efforts to join her husband at Scott Air Force Base in 1985 and working in the intensive care unit there. She also describes her classes in flight school at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, bringing her horse down with her, and the stables at Fort Sam Houston.

Sykes comments on her overseas service in Germany and Saudi Arabia. She describes in detail her flight assignment to Rhein Mein Air Force Base, including: passengers they carried; flying C-9s and C-130s; flight schedules; working in the Flight Clinical Coordinators and organizing flights; changes as Operation Desert Shield began; preparations for moving personnel and cargo for the war and how that connected to medical personnel; the logistics of moving patients; and working longer hours during the war. Topics relating to Saudi Arabia include living conditions in the Eskon Village and dealing with the sand; food; culture; interactions with the local people; hospitals in Riyadh; shopping downtown; and being disappointed that she transferred back to Germany. Sykes also describes flying two missions into Afghanistan to offload cargo and bring back patients, primarily injured civilians.

Sykes discusses her return to the United States and the rest of her assignments in the 1990s. She describes her nursing education at the University of Maryland in Baltimore from 1991 to 1993; working in the coronary care unit and setting up a nurse-managed outpatient clinic at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi; more than three years at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas; and organizing medic training at Fort Dietrick in Maryland.

Sykes talks at length about topics related to her service at Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force Base. Subjects include the litter obstacle course; being manager of the recovery room at the Post Anesthesia Care Unit for two years; organizing squadron readiness training; teaching medical disaster response in Hungary and El Salvador, including a live animal lab using anesthetized pigs and seeing the positive effects of their training; and a grant-funded study of nurse skill sustainment that used a Human Patient Simulator.

Topics related to Sykes life after her military career include her work with Strategic Staffing Resources helping immigrant nurses find work and take licensing exams; working with the Red Cross; and various part-time jobs in the medical field.

General topics related to the military include being a military couple; being pregnant and having a child while in the service; her husband’s air force career; differences between the military and civilian worlds; and the impact of her air force service on the rest of her life.

Creator: Cathryn Illman Sykes

Biographical Info: Cathryn Illman Sykes (b. 1957) of Greensboro, North Carolina, served as a nurse in the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2003.

Collection: Cathy Illman Sykes Oral History

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Hermann Trojanowski:

Okay, today is Wednesday, January 25, 2006, and the time is 1:40. My name is Hermann Trojanowski, and I'm at the home of Mrs. Cathy Illman Sykes in Greensboro, North Carolina, to conduct an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina Greensboro [UNCG]. Cathy, it's wonderful to see you again after about twenty years. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.

Cathy Sykes:

You're quite welcome.

HT:

If you will give me your full name, we'll use that as a test to see how we both sound on this machine.

CS:

Okay. It's Cathryn Illman Sykes.

[Recorder paused]

HT:

Cathy, thanks so much. If you would, tell me a few biographical facts about yourself such as where you were born.

CS:

Well, actually, I was born and grew up here in Greensboro, went to Page High School, and then from there—I graduated in 1975 from Page—and went to freshman year at Carolina, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That's where I met my husband, and we decided that we were going to get married rather than finish school at that point in time.

HT:

And when were you born?

CS:

Nineteen fifty-seven.

HT:

And can you tell me something about your family, your parents and any siblings you might have?

CS:

Yeah, my dad worked for, I think it was about forty-one years, for Burlington Industries. He was a research chemist, and he worked various places around the Greensboro area. He actually—his dad was an architect for the federal government among other things and built a number of things here in Greensboro. The old post office was the main thing. My mom was a teacher. It seems like she's taught half the kids my age in Greensboro, if not more. She taught many, many years as almost a full-time substitute at Kiser [Middle School], and then taught, gosh, twenty plus years at GTCC [Guilford Technical Community College] teaching both landscaping and also to gardening type classes as well as microwave cooking in the adult education program. I had one brother. He died in 1980. He had a lot of health problems, but he also graduated from UNCG summa cum laude with a double-major in math and economics, which was actually quite an accomplishment because he had already lost his sight at that point. So he was doing that with readers and, you know, help taking his exams, but he was very, very smart.

HT:

If we could back track to your high school days, you said you attended Page High School.

CS:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall what your favorite subjects were?

CS:

Probably math and science. That's—I've always really enjoyed the sciences, you know, things like that. English and history were definitely not my forte.

HT:

And then when did you start at UNCG?

CS:

Let's see. Nineteen eighty. My husband was in the air force at the time, and he—we left on—we were stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. He was stationed there in Tucson, Arizona, and, then we moved back—he moved to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, and I came back to UNCG to go to school. So I had been going to school, you know, part-time, working full-time, going part-time, knowing I wanted to come back but—

HT:

What was your major?

CS:

Came back as a nursing major.

HT:

And what made you decide to do that?

CS:

Well, I had heard a radio interview—and this is going to sound like a wild story—I heard a radio interview, I don't know, as a kid growing up on old WBIG with Dean Eloise Lewis.

[Telephone ringing, recorder paused]

CS:

And Dr. Lewis at that time was talking about the new nursing program, and there's something that just stuck with me from what—because what they were doing was they were starting a new baccalaureate program. For a number of years they had had an associate degree nursing program, and something had just stuck with me, and I knew—when I had gone to Carolina I thought that I wanted to be a doctor at that time.

HT:

A medical doctor?

CS:

A medical doctor. Well—and then I got married, and then I worked in a hospital as a nursing assistant for about three years, and I decided that I really didn't want to be a doctor, I wanted to be a nurse. And that all sort of kicked off, and I knew—I wanted to come home to UNCG because something about Dr. Lewis, and she was still here as the dean, something about that just really stuck with me, so.

HT:

So do you recall anything specific about the administrators at the nursing school other than Dr. Lewis, any stories that you might be able to—

CS:

Well—

HT:

—share with us.

CS:

It was very challenging for me to come back at that point because what I had done, was very consciously had selected courses that I knew would transfer for my first two years. So, I had all of my psychology and my basic humanities that I had to have, sociology and all those sort of things I took and then used them as transfer credits.

Well, that left all my science classes I had to just cram basically into one year. So, I ended up—it took me three years to get my degree, and I will never forget—I went to talk to Doris Armenaki who was in the School of Nursing then, and I had to get her help to get the biology department to let me take Biology 101 and 102 in the same semester, because otherwise there was no way I could get all my classes in. My second semester of what was then my sophomore year, I ended up with four lab courses, and it, you know the old saying of, if it doesn't kill you, it make you stronger [laughing], and I'll tell you I really, it really—I knew that I was earning my education. I was really getting a good education, but UNCG was—I couldn't have done it, I don't think, in a lot of schools. I was too young and too inexperienced I guess you could say for Carolina, but UNCG just my—

I will never forget and I'm just drawing a blank right now on the name of the professor—we had to take one semester of physics, and it was a conceptual physics class, and it was taught by the head of the department, which we were all non-physics majors in there was, you know, people majoring in nutrition and nursing and all those sort of things that had to take physics, and he was the most phenomenal teacher. I still remember his demonstrations and coming into class and, you know. The day he came in talking about different physical principles with one of these little roller things like you work on cars and a fire extinguisher and shoots himself across the room, you know? Lying down on a bed of nails in class. I mean always doing all sorts of wild things but just really, really stuck with me, and it's those sort of things that Carolina—the whole year I was there I was never taught by anything other than teaching assistants, and, you know, it's just such a difference in philosophy that, you know, I'm real excited my son wants to go to UNCG. Now, he's only a ninth-grader, you know, he's a freshman in high school, but, you know, it would probably be a good fit for him, too.

HT:

Well, you had mentioned Dr. Eloise [pausing]—

CS:

Lewis.

HT:

Lewis, a little bit earlier, do you have anything particular you want to tell us about her that you remember from that period of time?

CS:

She always had the story about always asking people, you know, nursing—people going through the nursing program that, you know, when you go out and you talk to your friends—I don't know how many other nurses you've talked to from UNCG—to always send more people back, little corpuscles, sending them back to, you know, send them to UNCG. You know, find the good people out there and send them, you know, her way, and she was just an absolutely phenomenal lady, just, hoo [laughing].

HT:

I met Dr. Lewis one time. As a matter I interviewed her for the same program, and she was quite wonderful. Well, what about college life, what—I'm assuming you were probably a day student?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

As opposed to—so, did you get involved in any on-campus activities?

CS:

Well, I was also across town ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] student—

HT:

Oh.

CS:

At [North Carolina] A&T [State University]. So my plate was really full between, you know, doing the nursing curriculum and doing that, you know, going over there because I had to take—I had to take my ROTC classes every semester over there, and that was another one where I crammed in four years into three years because I did first two classes of the freshman year sort of a self-study, took the exams and they gave me credit for it during the summer, so, I did that. I was in Golden Chain. I was a member of Golden Chain. Oh, gosh, what else? I spent a lot of time in the biology building [laughing] [Pause], just sort of general—you—I know I'm forgetting something, and maybe I'll think of it a little bit later.

HT:

Okay.

CS:

But those are probably the main thing.

HT:

Let's go back to ROTC. How did you get involved in the ROTC program? Evidently you must have known you were going to go into one of the branches of the service?

CS:

Yeah, I had kind of this idea, I guess, when I was in high school that I wanted to do—I—oh, it wasn't a calling or such, but I just, I felt really strongly that I wanted to do something in service to my country, and that's actually where I met my husband was in ROTC at Carolina.

HT:

Oh, Okay.

CS:

So, I had been—I had one year there as a ROTC cadet, and then, you know, we got married and went off and all that, and then—and I just—I had seen other women who had—I had thought about enlisting while we were living in Arizona, and—because I had seen other wives who every time their husband got transferred they had to stop, you know, drop their job, quit their job, start all over again, and it was like, well, why should I do that, because I can do the same thing in the air force? And I like to travel. I love to travel, and I figured that that would be probably the best way to go, realizing we were going to be in two different places, but we already were just for me to get through school, so—

HT:

Now, your mother, of course, was in the air force during World War II. Did that have any influence on you?

CS:

I'm not sure specifically, because I don't know that really at that time I knew that much about what she had done. I wonder, though, if sort of the—I don't know if it's really desire to serve or just the example of, you know, doing community service, doing certain church work, doing, you know, things in the community sort of gave me that idea that these are the things you do in life, that sort of thing.

HT:

Well, when did you graduate from UNCG?

CS:

Nineteen eighty-three.

HT:

And I'm assuming you were commissioned—

CS:

Yes.

HT:

—right after that?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

Did you do any post-graduate work after you left UNCG?

CS:

Yes, I did—when I was in the service the air force sent me to graduate school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, where I got my master's degree in trauma and critical care nursing, which was—that was extremely fortunate that—and, you know, it was very, very competitive, but I saw the other folks going through, you know, people who were having to work full-time and had families and it's, you know, I worked very, very hard. It is quite a difficult program, but at least that was my job, so.

HT:

So that's all you did?

CS:

That's really all I did.

HT:

And how long did the program last?

CS:

It's two years.

HT:

Okay. And so you were basically stationed there?

CS:

Right, exactly.

HT:

Were you made to wear air force uniforms or civilian clothes?

CS:

No civilian clothes. There were twelve of us actually, twelve air force nurses in my year group. That was one of the main locations where they sent people.

HT:

And did the program last all year, or did you have to go back to another base?

CS:

No, I took classes during summer school.

HT:

Oh. Okay.

HT:

So. It was really a great program because it gave me an opportunity. Basically at that time—now, from what I hear they've gotten a little more restrictive—but at that time you could take as many classes as—you had to take the plan for you to get your degree, but if you wanted to take additional classes, as long as you kept your grades up, they didn't care, and the air force would pay. So, I took—there were, oh, I guess, about four of us, four or five of us, who took extra classes. We'd go down to the University of Maryland in College Park, the main campus, and took extra classes to get an administration certificate, a general administration certificate down there. So, that was neat, because I got to take some of the nursing administration classes, and I took a class in education, you know, sort of a smorgasbord of things.

HT:

And when were you at the University of Maryland, was that right after UNCG or—

CS:

No, no. I graduated—let's see. I went the fall of '91, and I graduated in '93, just exactly ten years later [laughing].

HT:

I guess I jumped ahead of the game here a little bit.

CS:

Yes.

HT:

So after you became a second lieutenant, where was your first duty station?

CS:

I went to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. [noises in the background] Yeah, there you go [noises in the background].

HT:

And what type of work did you do there?

CS:

Well, I was fortunate in that as most nurses at that point in time had to have a year experience coming in, a year of nursing experience before they come in the military, but they were doing particularly for ROTC graduates and some, and a few people who had done very well in their nursing program, the air force offered what they call a Nurse Internship Program, which they still do it, but it's much shorter now. It was five and a half months, and it actually was considered as an assignment.

Now, I stayed at Wright-Pat afterwards, but some of the folks in our group—there were twelve in our group—we worked anywhere from two weeks to a month in different areas in the hospital. So, I got a chance to work in a number of different areas which was really nice. Wright-Pat was a big medical center, and it was very nice because afterwards, you know, I knew people—here I'm really brand new, but I knew people all over the hospital. So it just made things much easier, you know, if you had to transfer a patient from your unit to an orthopedic unit and you picked up the phone and you knew the person on the other end, it just made things work much more smoothly. I worked—after that I was assigned on the surgical unit. It was a major surgery unit, thirty-six-bed unit, which—

HT:

Which is still at Wright-Patterson?

CS:

Yes, still at Wright-Pat. Some of—about half of our group went on to other bases, but—let's see. I was the only one assigned to that unit. I was there—let's see. That was January to—let's see. That was 1983 till I think November, and then I went—I was still at Wright-Pat. Then I went to work in the intensive care unit.

HT:

Did you ever go through anything that I would call basic training like six weeks of—

CS:

Well, you do that during ROTC.

HT:

Okay.

CS:

Since I'd gotten my commission through ROTC, I did between my sophomore and my junior year I went through four weeks of what they call field training.

HT:

Field training.

CS:

Yes, that was down at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

HT:

Do you have any recollection of what that was like?

[Both laughing]

CS:

About like basic training. According to my husband who was enlisted first before he became an officer, it was very, very strenuous. I mean everything from all your shirts had to be hung exactly right, your hangers spaces and your—all your socks had to smile. You know, they had to be put in the drawer a certain way, and your underwear had to be folded a certain way. You know, they checked your beds and the whole works. You went everywhere in formation, even PT [physical training] and the beach, so.

HT:

So, that was at Tyndall?

CS:

Yes, that was at Tyndall, [clearing throat] excuse me.

HT:

And where is that again?

CS:

In Florida.

HT:

In Florida.

CS:

It's near—it's actually just outside of Panama City, Florida.

HT:

So, it's on the panhandle?

CS:

On the panhandle, yes. Beautiful white fine sandy beaches [laughing].

HT:

So, did you ever get a chance to visit those beaches while you were in your field training?

CS:

Well, we had—Tyndall is kind of nice because there's—they have their own beaches and it's sort of protected. There's a spit of land that comes out so they're protected from a lot of the rough weather that comes in, and, yes, we would run all the way to the beach. You know, because when you are in your PT stuff you run everywhere instead of marching, and, so, we would run all the way to the beach, and we would play our volleyball or all I mainly remember—I know it's a couple of different things, but you would play your organized sports and generally have a little bit of free time, maybe a half an hour at most, and then you would run all the way back, but—

HT:

You just had to do that one time?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

During your ROTC days?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

And that was it? And then after you were commissioned, you didn't have to do any kind of additional type of basic training?

CS:

Well, I went to—no, not like that. They have—because I was medical and you go to—at that point in time, they've changed it quite a bit since then—but at that point in time you just went to two weeks, and it was really just classroom pretty much, and for those—now for those you go through ROTC, they don't even go to that. For those who haven't, who are direct commissions who come in, it's a month—long, and they—it's not as structured as like field training or basic training, but it's more structured in that they even the doctors—even all the doctors who come in have to learn how to march and have to learn how to salute properly. You know, some of those real basic military things, and they're there about a month now.

HT:

Let me just backtrack just a second on ROTC. Did you have to take any kind of written or physical test to join ROTC?

CS:

Well, no, not to join. Your first two years you're—I can't remember what they call it, but it's basically anybody can participate in the first two years. Then normally you go to your field training, and then depending how you do at your field training, you're recommended to continue, and then you actually sign paperwork and go in the inactive reserve for what they call the Professional Officer Course which is—or I think it's course—which is your second two years, your junior and senior years, and you get a real small stipend. It's like, I don't know what it is now. Then it was like one hundred dollars a month for the months that you're in school to help with. It's not really a scholarship, but it's like just a small stipend that you get, and that is somewhat competitive in that there are some restrictions on what areas, you know, because they're really looking at recruiting, and what educational background, you know, they don't want all journalism majors that sort of thing. You know, they need—there's preference given to people coming in with hard science degrees. Nursing was no problem. And then it's a little bit more competitive as far as slots are available for you to get in if you have sort of a softer degree, you know, English degrees, journalism degrees.

HT:

History degrees.

CS:

History, business, business administration. You know, they need those people because an air force base is basically like a big city or a small city, depending on its size, and you've got to have all those working parts to make it work.

HT:

How many hours a month did you have to participate or a week in the ROTC?

CS:

Well, you have a class. You really had two classes because you had what they call a leadership lab which was, you know, your marching and your whatever job you had. When you're in your first two years you basically go out and you're a body in the ranks, you know? And then in the second, your junior and senior years, you have some kind of position, some kind of job, and what—

It was kind of interesting because I had a real eye-opening experience with—I really, really wanted to work in one of the position recruiting, and there are only four people who could work in recruiting, and what they tried to do, was they tried to have a black male and a white male and a black female and a white female. Now, realizing this is, you know, 1982. Anyway, it didn't, that didn't seem odd to me at the time. I'm not sure that they could get away with it today, but I really, really wanted to be in recruiting and I kind of got to, “Well, we'll see. We'll see, whatever.” You know, it's real competitive and only the best cadets are chosen to do that, and all that. I found out I'd been selected. I was going to be able to work in recruiting, which I was really thrilled about, and then I came to find out I got selected because I was the only white female in the corps.

HT:

[Laughing]

CS:

And it really, really opened my eyes on what quotas—how they feel, and I was, I was really—I mean I was glad because I still wanted to do it. I didn't care why I got selected really, but it really opened my eyes on how other folks can feel when they get something or achieve something and find out it wasn't because of merit. It wasn't because they had the skills to do it. It was just because of the color of their skin. So it was quite eye-opening for me.

HT:

An interesting story. Well, how did your family, friends, and neighbors and co-workers feel when they learned that you were on this course to join the military, because this was right after Vietnam?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

And you were going ROTC. I can't remember exactly how most people felt, but do you recall?

CS:

Well, my first throw in ROTC was in 1975.

HT:

Okay.

CS:

And that was much closer to Vietnam War.

HT:

Oh, yes.

CS:

And I don't think either one of my parents were happy. I'm not sure that they quite could figure out what they had ever done that led me to think I wanted to be in the military, and I remember for years after going in the military, “Oh, mom, it won't be for long. Just one more assignment.” [laughing] I think after probably about ten to fifteen years they figured out I was probably going to stay for awhile, but it—the first—I know my parents were not very thrilled. They never said a whole lot, but—and I'm not sure that, I don't think they were very happy with the fact that I was going over at A&T to—I think part of it was a safety issue more than anything, and I was never, ever felt that it was not, you know, I was not, this was something I shouldn't be doing certainly. I mean it was a great experience, but, you know, I don't really remember anybody else having real specific comments about it, but, you know, I think my friends, most of my friends by then were, it was more ROTC group. So, you know, we were all in together.

HT:

Now, did your parents have to sign any sort of papers giving you permission to do anything?

CS:

No, because I was old enough.

HT:

You were old enough?

CS:

Yes, I think some of the nursing students—I still, I do remember some of the nursing students asking me, you know, why? Why are you doing this? Because there was one other nursing student, and she was an A&T nursing student who was in ROTC. There was just the two of us. She was actually—I'm pretty sure she was a year ahead of me, but no, it wasn't. I didn't have time, really, to [laughing]—

HT:

Because you were quite busy then?

CS:

Very, yes.

HT:

Well, do you recall what people in general thought about women joining the military? Was it something that people looked on with favor or?

CS:

I think it was more a little bit of surprise, of why? Because actually I was coming in just as they were phasing out rules like you get pregnant, you're out. You know, frowning on—I do remember a great deal of concern from some of the instructors, the ROTC instructors, of the fact that my husband was enlisted at the time, and they were really concerned that that was—and it really did have a potential to cause problems. Now, he ended up getting his commission about—let's see, I got my commission in May, and he was commissioned the next February. So, I mean, it was only about eight months, and we knew he was going down that path, because he was going to school in Newport News [Virginia], the same time I was going to school in Greensboro. So, it—but they were really concerned because that, really more than being a woman in the military, that was more of a concern to them was the fact that he was enlisted and I was going to be an officer, and that was really frowned on.

HT:

Did you know any other couples that eventually, I mean, in your military career who were in that kind of situation where one of the spouses was a commissioned officer and the other was an enlisted person?

CS:

Yes, I've known several. Not very many, and in some places it depended on the commander. In some places it was very difficult. It was much more difficult if they were both in the medical career field. Again—

HT:

Why?

CS:

Well, it could be. The closer together they worked, you know, and it was a matter sort of their personalities, too. How much did they—how much of an issue did they make of it? I'm not sure that there was ever any difference between, were they, you know, which one was enlisted, because I think most frequently you would see a medical officer married to a non-medical enlisted person. I'm not quite sure why that worked, but that seemed to be sort of the thing. It—and, again, I mean, because technically by the rules that's fraternization, and the thing—the one thing that I saw, well, they say the military the only thing that's constant is change, and everything seemed to be very cyclical. It was almost about every, you know, five or eight years, I'd say. When I first went in things tended to be fairly traditional, fairly restrictive. Conceivably really could have been a problem that my husband was enlisted. Then things got much more relaxed. It's no big deal, and then all of a sudden things started getting very, very tight again, and fraternization was really frowned upon and could get you in trouble and all of that. So that—I saw—it was very changing.

HT:

But you said you only had eight months—

CS:

Yes.

HT:

—Bill [Sykes] wasn't a—

CS:

And the thing was I went—I actually went on active duty at the end of July in '83. Then I went two—I went to Sheppard [Air Force Base] for two weeks for what they called MIMSO, which—

HT:

What is that?

CS:

Which stands for—it's the Medical Indoctrination—wait a minute. I got to stop and think. Military Indoctrination for Medical Service Officers [laughing].

HT:

M-I-M-O?

CS:

M-I-M-S-O [laughing].

HT:

Okay.

CS:

Military Indoctrination for Medical Service Officers [laughing], and that was the two weeks of basically explaining to the medical people how the military worked, and it was—it's a very good thing that they've revamped it, because many of the doctors didn't want to be there, and they would sit and read their medical journals or they would sit, you know, because there was—in fact, I was in the largest class at that point that they'd ever had. It was almost 300 of us, 270—some of us, and they'd sit in this big, huge auditorium and listen to people lecture up on the stage. And, you know, you'd see people sleeping. It was just really, really bad. Since I had kind of—having gone through ROTC, having a military spouse, I was a little horrified at these folks, but yeah, I did—that was two weeks, and then I went to Wright-Pat and five months of internship, which was very, very busy, and, so, it wasn't really an issue because my husband wasn't there. He was still at Langley. Well, no, actually he went to—let's see, probably November—I'm trying to think how long OTS [Officer Training School] was. Can you stop just a second and let me ask—

HT:

Sure.

[Recorder paused]

CS:

It was—he was one of the ninety-day wonders at OTS. So that means, let's see, he would have probably gone to OTS, I think November sometime. So we were both in very separate places, very, very busy, and he was already sort of becoming an officer right after I had gone on active duty. So we never really had a problem with it, thank goodness.

HT:

So, after you finished your internship at Wright[-Patterson] Air Force Base, I guess that was in the fall or early '84?

CS:

I finished in January of '84.

HT:

Oh, okay, and where did you go next?

CS:

I stayed at Wright-Pat. My husband was in OTS at the time. He was commissioned in February; and, you know, we were thinking, oh, Wright-Pat, it's got lots of—because he had a degree—he had a bachelors of science in computer science, and we thought, you know, he was going to be a communications officer somewhere. Wright-Pat would be a great place because it's got a lot of technology and Air Force Institute of Technology and all this stuff. Well, were we wrong [laughing]. So he ended up getting an assignment to Scott Air Force Base.

HT:

Your mother was at Scott.

CS:

Yes, in Belleville [Illinois], outside of Belleville, and so then my challenge was—well, what we found out—he was told at OTC, “Oh, no problems, just go. Stay there for a year and then ask to do your own move and join your wife at Wright-Pat.” Well, what the little piece he wasn't told was the fact that it was a headquarters assignment, and that's a four-year controlled tour [laughing]. So then I had to find my way to Wright-Pat, but what I did was—well, let's see. This would have been '84. I asked to stay at Wright—I mean, I'm sorry, to Scott. I had to find my way to Scott. I asked to stay—I had gone to the ICU [Intensive Care Unit] in November of '84. I asked to stay at Scott until—I mean, I'll get it straight yet—at Wright-Pat until November of '85, because once I'd been in the ICU for a year you get a special experience identifier, and because I wanted to stay in the ICU, that's the sort of thing that when I then ask for an assignment, it would red flag me to get that assignment. So I stayed till November of '85 and then moved to—I got an assignment to Scott to join him, so.

HT:

But these two air force bases are not that far apart, I assume? They're both sort of—

CS:

Well, they're right down I-70, but it's—

HT:

So you got to go back and forth on weekends and that sort of thing?

CS:

Well, not, it's about, uh, it was about a six-hour drive.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

Yes, it's quite a ways, because you've got to get all the way across Indiana, Illinois—and Illinois because it's just outside of St. Louis. So, it's all the way the other side of Illinois. Plus half of Ohio. So, it's a straight shot, but it's—it was quite a ways. So, yes, we were doing things—he would come some weekends, I would go other weekends, but see, I was working shift work, so, it was—and he was working a lot, because as a second lieutenant in a headquarters he worked for Air Force Communications Command headquarters, which is no longer a command of its own anymore, when they did a lot of reorganization—but as a second lieutenant you're lower than dirt [laughing], and a major is nothing in a headquarters, and, so, he worked a lot of hours and a lot of long hours.

Yes, we spent about five and a half years with two separate households, but which is fairly interesting because some of our good friends when we left Tucson [Arizona], and they knew what we were going to do—well, they didn't know it was going to be that long, but they knew, you know, I had at least three years of school they—it was, “Oh, you'll never make it,” you know, “You guys are crazy to do this. You really don't want to do this.” You know, “It's not smart. It won't be good for your marriage,” and on and on thinking they were being good friends. In a way they were, because our stubborn streaks really got active, and it's like, “Dad gum it. We're going to make this work,” and it was very difficult, but, you know, we were stubborn, and we're going to make it work. Let's see. The eighth of this month we celebrated our twenty-ninth anniversary. So, I'd say [laughing]—

HT:

You proved them incorrect.

CS:

We proved them wrong, you bet.

HT:

So where was your next assignment after—so you finally got to Scott?

CS:

I got to Scott November of '85. I worked in the ICU there, which was really very, very interesting. They had an eight-bed center. I think it was eight beds, yeah, five outside and three in the—and that was [pausing] shift work. I worked a lot of nights. I loved evenings and nights, and they loved—I was a captain by that point. Actually, I put on captain while I was there, and they loved having, you know, somebody with a little more seniority working nights so they didn't have all the second lieutenants and airmen working nights. Hey, it's makes me happy. I don't have to worry about—there's not so many, chiefs, just us Indians. So, you just did our business.

Then I went—I got an assignment—a flying assignment from there. I went to flight school. I'd just bugged the tar out of anybody who would listen. “I want to go to flight school. I want to go to flight school.” Did every additional duty, I did a lot of like staff education in a unit sort of based education. I developed a whole critical care orientation program. I did everything I could think of so that they would send me to flight school 'cause it was very, very difficult to get slots, particularly—Scott was the smallest of the medical centers of the—they have five, six medical centers, I guess, and Scott's the smallest, and at the time it was in, well MAC, Mobility Air Command—anyway, now it's AMC, Air Mobility Command—which has the least number of nurses of any of the commands in the air force. So, they, of course, they get the least number of slots. And, so, it was very, very competitive, but I got a slot to flight school and went down to—that's five weeks down at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio [Texas].

HT:

And can you describe what flight school is?

CS:

Well, you spend—I guess we spent probably the first two weeks in classes learning all about flight physiology and what putting a person in an airplane and taking it up to altitude does to your body, and you start out with, what does it do to healthy people, and then what does it do to sick people, and different types of illnesses, different types of people who have had different types of surgeries, people who have had different types of injuries, you know, all the problems with, you know, the stresses of flight.

And, then, we also had classes on equipment that we had to use. We got tested on things like they had—they have a little bitty—it looks like, almost like a kid's toy, where you'd be given this plastic tub of parts, and you had a certain number of minutes—it was like two minutes—that you had to take all these plastic parts and get it together and make it work, and that was your ventilator that you might have to use on a patient [laughs]. It was a special kind of ventilator because you can't use regular ventilators like you'd use in a hospital because their volume cycle, to help people breathe, and as you go up in the air, as you get to altitude air expands, so your volumes change. So, they had to use a pressure cycle ventilator, and it literally—the little ventilator, it's almost like a little pump. It's about this big, but it had all these parts, and you had to have it just exactly right.

So, we had tests like that, and then we had—because there are special equipment that you use on airplanes, and you had to learn. You had to learn days' worth of things as far as aircraft safety. They actually have a hangar down at Brooks where they have the fuselage from a C-130, and you had to learn how to safely load litters, how to configure the inside of the aircraft because a lot of times you might have to fly an opportune mission, where they fly in maybe the cargo, and C-130s in particular, they carry, on the sides of the airplane, they carry the litter stations and up above—way up above where the litter straps and the litter clamps, they just store them in these little buckets. So, you can have an airplane come in. You'd have to offload all of the cargo and then configure the aircraft to be able to take patients back out.

HT:

And the nurses are responsible for those?

CS:

Yes, the nurses have to do that. The nurses—and you fly. You don't fly with doctors as a rule. It's nurses and medical technicians. So, it was a course that was—we were together—

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

HT:

Okay.

CS:

Okay?

HT:

Yes.

CS:

We had to learn how to do basically all the things that you think about when you fly on a regular commercial airplane as flight attendants. We had to learn all those things. You have to learn your ditching procedures if you ditch in the water. So, we had this fuselage from this old airplane that's over the swimming pool, and you have to learn how to get out, how to get your patients out, how to inflate the life rafts, how to get into the life rafts, and we're doing all this in the pool, of course, with all your clothes on which is kind of a new experience, but it was a very, very good course. We had—I was trying to remember. I don't think we did any live animal labs then. I taught later, when I was stationed at the, what they call battlefront nursing class, battlefront nursing course, but I think it was all—we used mannequins.

We learned—they had the C-131 fuselage. They had a C-9 actual part of a real plane, a mock up that we learned how to load patients on and off, how to set up the equipment, and, of course, you're tested on everything. Lots and lots of performance, because it's just, you know, everything from knowing how many liters of liquid oxygen you're supposed to have in the different types of airplanes, and we had to learn basics through the C-141, the C-130, and the C-9. You had to know, you know, what, your evacuation procedures, what were the different kinds of life preservers you had. You know, see, there's this lists and lists of things, where the fire extinguishers are in different kinds of aircraft, where the all the safety sort of things, and we had to learn all of that, and then you get tested on all of that.

HT:

And all of this in five weeks?

CS:

Yes. It was crammed, and then, you know, afterwards you—a lot of the people did a lot of partying [laughing], you know at night when you weren't in class. We did a lot of sort of group study things before the test, but—and we were there because I was there right from the beginning of January. We actually graduated on Friday, the thirteenth, February 13. I won't forget that. You also do—it's about three days of survival training that they do.

Now, it had been interesting—and I didn't say this earlier when I was down at—because Tyndall Air Force Base is one of the places where they do, for the air crews, they do survival training. I was—they took all of the ROTC cadets through the water survival training. Now, of course, it wasn't like the whole big course, but that's something that simply because we happened to be at Tyndall we were able to do. You know, you go up in the tower and you have to pull the ejection things, and they yank you out and drag you down through the water, and you have to learn, like if you had to parachute how to find the airgen [?], some things like that which was—Tyndall did that, and then—but with flight school you get just sort of basic survival.

HT:

And was flight school for nurses only, I think you said?

CS:

And medical technicians.

HT:

No doctors go through it. Both male and female?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

Now, I'm assuming most of the nurses were probably female, were the technicians male or female?

CS:

Both.

HT:

Both.

CS:

Both, yes, and actually the air force has a much higher percentage of male nurses than all the branches of the military do than you would see in the civilian population. Guess when I got out it was—it was probably pushing about 15 percent of the nurses were men, and, you know, I don't know why. I don't know if it was, it wasn't really that, it wasn't that much of an issue.

HT:

Because in civilian life you see so few male nurses.

CS:

Yes.

HT:

So, when the male nurses retired from the air force or any branch of service, do they stay in nursing or do they go into other fields or—

CS:

Well—

HT:

Do you know?

CS:

Nursing now is—there's so many things that you can do, and I think one of the things I saw a lot of the—well, I can't say it wasn't any more than anything else. There's—I think they tend to go more into some type of business related to nursing. I'm not sure that there's that many people who retire from—or they go into education, you know, to teaching, or doctor's offices. I think they're not going back in the hospital. I think probably if you stay long enough to retire that you're—you've probably done your time in the hospital [laughing]. Oh, the other thing in flight school that I did that was kind of—everybody thought I'd lost my marbles was I took my horse to flight school.

HT:

Okay.

[Both laughing]

HT:

How did that work out?

CS:

I—my husband and I both had horses when we were at Scott, and like I was going to be down there for five weeks. What was I going to do? We were right across town from Fort Sam Houston which has, you know, I did a lot of calling around to see what was available in the way of stables, if there were any military stables in the area. And I found out, okay, I have to have my horse in quarantine for two weeks, taking him to Fort Sam, but then they had space, and they had—it turned out it was great. It was sort of a self-care big barn. You know, I paid somebody and they would feed for me just simply because I wasn't sure whether I would be able to get out morning or evening, and it was wonderful. One nice thing it probably kept me from partying and drinking quite as much as a lot of the others did instead. But it was—it was really neat because I would be up early in the morning over. I'd take care of my horse, you know, turn him out or whatever and make sure his stall was picked up, because they were pretty picky about that particularly when they had—

Fort Sam was where they had the first military pentathlon competitors, and the big, old barn are beautiful, old, huge stone building, which is where the veterinary clinic was then, because it had been a big cavalry post. They had just these stalls attached to the side of the building, and that's where if they had new horses that were coming on post they would have to stay there in quarantine for two weeks so that the vets could check them out. And I could go over and it was right across the street. There was a big, you know, pasture area. I could turn him out in the mornings and come back afterwards, and they still had some of the rings and stuff where they had done the army officers where they had practiced before the Olympics and done competitions and stuff, and so I could find places to ride. So it was kind of neat. It gave me a chance to learn a lot more about Fort Sam Houston, that was for sure. And, then, the last three weeks when I moved over to the other side of the post there were a lot of people over there. I'd go out in the evening and it gave me a little different flavor to socialize with, and, then, I think it gave me a little bit healthier past-time than what some of the other students were doing [laughing].

HT:

So, after you finished flight school, you went back to Scott?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

And the horse went back with you?

CS:

And the horse went back with me. Yes, I trailered him all the way down there and trailered him all the way back, but yes—and then it was funny, because I got—never have I had so much lead time. I actually found out in October '87 that I had orders to fly, a flying assignment, in October of '88, and they didn't quite know how to handle it, because I actually got order of notification a year before. And of course everything—it really bothered them, and I was coming for my assignment briefing and I had a year to go, because lots of things are going to change in the meantime. So we went on through it, but, you know, that—

HT:

As to what are doing during that year of between October of '87 and '88?

CS:

I was worked in the ICU.

HT:

ICU, okay. And then you got your first flight assignment in '88?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

What was that like?

CS:

Oh, it was wonderful. I went to—we went to Germany. My husband got, of course, thank goodness that gave him a year to work his orders to try to get over there.

HT:

So this was a permanent assignment?

CS:

Yes. It was a permanent assignment, yes. He actually ended up going, I guess about, let's see, June of that year, he left for Germany, which, of course, left me to do the storage shipment of household goods and my whole baggage and his whole baggage, and our household goods we were shipping overseas, you know, all the moving stuff. He left and left me with—but that, it was worth it.

HT:

And where in Germany were you stationed?

CS:

At Rhein Mein [Air Force Base]. I'll give you the spelling later, but it's right outside of Frankfurt. It's actually—they share the Flughafen, which is the airport. They share the runways, and the Rhein Mein—in fact I just saw an article in one of the military magazines, I guess, we get—that they finally turned Rhein Mein back over to the German government since that was, I guess, well, that's where they flew the Berlin Airlift out of, was Rhein Mein Air Base. There's a monument there that there's the mirror image of it in Berlin at Tempelhof [Airport] that it's almost like—almost like a wing, I guess, coming up out of the ground, and then the same one that faces it in Berlin.

It was—it was a really—it was a very, very interesting assignment. We flew all over Europe, and then we also flew missions back and forth to the United States bringing people back. I think that was probably one of my best assignments. They only generally let you have one flying assignment because there's so many people who want to fly. They send way more people than they ever need to flight school than they ever need for active duty foreign assignments because there's only three active-duty flying squadrons. Well, actually there's four. Three that are what they call strategic flying squadrons. There's one at Yokota [Air Force Base], Japan; used to be in the Philippines, but then they moved it to Yokota. There's one at Scott Air Force Base, and then there's one—there was one at Rhein Mein and then they moved them to Ramstein [Air Base, Germany], I guess about a year after I left.

HT:

And how large was the squadron?

CS:

It was about a hundred people.

HT:

Okay. With doctors—

CS:

There were no doctors.

HT:

No doctors at all.

CS:

No doctors, no. You would fly—occasionally if you had a patient that was very, very sick, a critical care patient, either adult or a child—because we flew not only military but we also flew dependents. And, occasionally, at the request of the Department of State, we would fly civilians back to the United States. Sometimes we would pick them up. You know, if somebody got sick over there and they didn't have any other way to get out, or they were, you know, State Department personnel whatever, we would pick them up and then, you know, connect the flights to get them back to the United States.

HT:

And what type of aircraft did you use at this point?

CS:

We flew—mainly we flew the C-9s which are—they were actually built for air medical evacuation. It is the only aircraft that has been—the inside was actually designed, and they were built in the early '70s, most of the airframes were early '70s, and they are pretty much—I don't know if they've phased all of them out, but they have pretty much have phased out the C-9s. We also flew C-141s, then, and we flew C-130s, and you just—you really had lost the draw if the C-9 that was supposed to do your mission was broken. There wasn't one to replace it, and you had to fly a C-130 [laughing]. That was just like torture because they are so much slower. They are so much louder. It's just—you could do about half as many stops in a 130 as you could in a C-9.

HT:

And I'm assuming these planes were all full of sick military people?

CS:

Well, we flew—of the three squadrons, the ones in the Pacific flew the longest missions. They flew very long legs. I mean two, three hours between stops. The ones at Scott generally would fly very short legs because they were going to lots of places. They actually probably had the hardest, and they flew the sickest people. We flew something in between. We would occasionally get sick people but a lot of what we had were people who were going from—a lot of times dependents who were getting, having to go for doctor's appointments that were referrals, because if they were at a small base they would then have to go to a larger base because, to get specialty care. There were people who had been injured who needed to get—we flew—we always had two people who stood alert who had to be available if we ever got a call to pick up somebody who was an urgent patient, and we launched—I'd say we probably launched about once a week, maybe—I'd say three to four times a month we would launch an aircraft to pick up an urgent patient. The area in the squadron, again, everybody had a job that they did in addition to whatever, just flying.

HT:

Oh, so, you are not flying—

CS:

You didn't fly all the time.

HT:

—eight hours?

CS:

No.

HT:

Okay.

CS:

No, you only flew a few days a month, but you had a job. The job—the area where I worked was called in the FCC which was the Flight Clinical Coordinators. And, basically, every single person who got on an aircraft within Europe—who moved on an air evac[uation] mission—we had to review their record the day before. And then, once we—as we reviewed patients' records in the computer, they were then released to the administrative people who would manifest them on different flights, because we had a standard schedule of flights. We knew where they were going. So, you know, they would look at where were they coming from, where did they have to get to, and they would assign them to flights, but we had to make sure that based on looking at what was in the computer, you know, were they safe to fly? Did we need to get—did they need any special equipment? Because anybody—if you're sending out a crew the next day, all the special equipment they will need for any patient during the day has to be sent with them, because there's no way to get it once they were out in the system.

So we had to plan for any special equipment, and a lot of times I—you almost had to develop sort of a sixth sense because you would read some of these, and you've got to figure they were—a lot of the patients that were getting put in were getting put in by some poor, Ernie admin person who didn't know medical stuff at all, but was just trying to type whatever the doctor said, and didn't know what was wrong with the patients. So you would sort of learn that, to really question. Well, if you are trying to call somebody in Brindisi, Italy, to find out what's really going on with this patient, you know, the telephone systems in Europe are awful.

So we had many times we had to call patients, and I found—I had one patient who was entered in the system as back pain. No special equipment, no nothing, and it was just like, “Well, this is odd,” and so I finally got through, after several hours of trying I finally got through to find out this guy had a spinal fracture. He needed traction. He needed oxygen. He needed all sorts of equipment, and the poor, little kid who had been told to put this in the computer didn't know what he was doing, and didn't understand why we needed to know what we needed to know. So we did a lot of those calls.

We were also on call. If they got a call into the—they called it the AECC. It was the Air Medical Evacuation Control Center. It was manned twenty-four hours a day. If they got a call, then they would have to call a flight clinical coordinator or one of the nurses. We would come in and look at the patient information and then they would figure out, you know, what do we need to launch? Do we not? Do we need to—because if it was an urgent—an urgent meant that you had to launch an aircraft now to safe life, limb or eyesight. A priority means they needed to be moved within twenty-four hours. Either one of those had to be validated by a flight surgeon. So that meant that if we looked at it, you know, maybe we would call them back first to find out, you know, did this really need to be an urgent or a priority, or could we just add it to the next day's mission? And, you know, depending on, you know, you'd get talking to people and you learned who had what resources. It didn't make sense for us to launch an aircraft for an urgent patient who was sitting on an aircraft carrier in the Med[itteranean] when they had more medical resources on that boat than the hospital that we would evacuate them to. So you had to learn a lot about what were the resources in the area.

We—and then, we would look at, do we need to launch? And, you know, sometimes we did. To this day I will remember getting called in for an urgent—we had gotten a call from a doctor. He was in—down in Sicily. No, it wasn't Sicily. It was—oh, shoot, what's the other—there's a little island off of Italy. Anyway, two young folks had been out, and we had a horrible problem with young people getting out on the little motorbikes or in cars and getting in accidents. They had accidents all the time, particularly navy personnel, and this was two young folks had been in an accident, and we had gotten this frantic call from this doctor saying we had to come get these people right now, and I came in, finally got the guy on the phone, or he called—he called back to the squadron because we couldn't reach him at any of the numbers he'd left, and he said he was in the battalion hospital. They had taken one of the people to surgery. He couldn't find out anything about him. Nobody there spoke English, and you could tell it was a young American doctor who was probably trained with state-of-the-art stuff in the hospital he was trained in, and he could not communicate. The other patient he was really worried about, and he said, “I don't even have a blood pressure cuff.” He couldn't do anything for this person. He didn't know why they had taken one to surgery. Couldn't find out, and he was frantic on the phone, and, you know, we ended up figuring out how to get them transported, how to get more information. And a lot of times what we had to do was help them just calm down and think straight long enough to figure out what were their resources right there, because we were hours away, even best case scenario. I mean just travel time going from Germany to Italy. It was probably going to be three hours, plus you had to launch your crew. They had to do their pre-flight stuff. So, you add another hour to that. So it was—you learned—I learned that the life is dealt with—life and death issues are dealt with very differently in Europe than they are in the United States, and we were sending a lot of very idealistic, young doctors and nurses over there, and they really got smacked in the face with the fact that it's a very different world, and they don't have everything at their fingertips. They have to rely much more on, you know, the gifts God gave them basically.

HT:

Sometimes it's improvising as well.

CS:

Exactly.

HT:

Now, would you pick up just one person if he needed a—

CS:

Yes. In fact shortly before I left—because I worked in the FCC I didn't—I wasn't on alert nearly as much as some of the people in the squadron. Some of the other areas like—the people in scheduling especially who did air crew scheduling, they flew a lot because, okay, so they weren't there that day, it wasn't that a big of a deal if they got alerted to go somewhere. You had people who worked in training, who did all the air crew training and all the new air crew personnel, made sure that they were new, all those things that you learned at flight school you had to go over for real now, actually in the airplanes and make sure you could do it. Then they had stand eval, which is standardization and evaluation. Those were like your inspectors basically. Those are the people who came out and did all of the—all your check rides with you to evaluate—they stood over your shoulder and didn't say a word but took a lot of notes [laughing] to find out, you know, were you doing everything you were supposed to be doing. Then they would start with the quizzing. Okay, how much locks? And, how do you find the data on this? And, how many of this type of life preserver should you need? Well, you've got, you know, so many litter patients, and on and on. How much? Okay, who was supposed to be doing this? And what if this happened? And that sort of thing.

HT:

And you did this flying for what, about an year?

CS:

No, I was there for three years.

HT:

Oh, three years' time, okay.

CS:

Yeah. And in that three years we had a few little momentous things, like the [Berlin] Wall went down and Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and [laughing], you know, and we went to war, so.

HT:

So, that three years were from '80—

CS:

[Nineteen] eighty-eight to '91, yes, yeah I went to graduate school from there.

HT:

Now, you mentioned the wall coming down and Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait. So what differences did you see or experience prior to the wall coming down, prior to Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait and then the wall coming down and us going to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Was there any difference in the procedures or the administration of the flights and that sort of thing?

CS:

Well, we got much, much, much busier. As far as the Berlin Wall coming down, it was a challenging time for the military there, because military doctrine does not—it moves about the pace of syrup in snow. It's very, very slow to change for the most part, and, you know, we were there—still the doctrine is important because the people are assigned, and the mission that they're given that they're expected to train to be able to do is based on whatever that doctrine says they think will happen, and they still were preparing for the Fulda Gap scenario of, you know, the bad guys coming through this massive land war and what were we going to do with that? And that's how people were deployed and manned and expected to train. When that really was, you know, totally, totally different than we were expected to respond to with an air war that was building up in the Gulf. And I wish I could lay my hands on those numbers. I know I've got them somewhere. I'll see if I can't dig them up for you.

Rhein Mein was a really pivotal location because so much of the cargo that was going to the Gulf came through Rhein Mein. They moved my husband, actually, he's a communication's officer, but you're talking about transportation. He worked in—he could tell you the right names for it better—but he was in charge of all the systems that managed all the computer systems that managed all the cargo and passengers that went through Rhein Mein. And he had to learn—he even got trained on how to go out and push pallets on the aircraft because we had so many—they moved more cargo through Rhein Mein in the first thirty days of Desert Shield than they had did in the entire Berlin Airlift, and, you know, which is absolutely mind boggling. The morning we woke up and we found that the whole ramp was full of C-5s, it was like, “we've been invaded.”

HT:

Because those C-5s are big—

CS:

They're huge, huge, big aircraft. So that was interesting. I—our squadron actually had a crew on the ground in Saudi Arabia, actually two crews, one in Dhahran and one in Riyadh, forty-eight hours after Kuwait was invaded. Now did they know what to do with them? No. Thank goodness our commander was a colonel had had the sense to send as the—a crew is made up of two nurses and three medical technicians, a standard crew. She had had sense to send two majors down there, which we—mostly it was a squadron of captains for the most part. We had a few majors, but she sent two nurses who had a backbone and a little bit of rank, and they went down and started knocking on doors. And it was such a—they were coming in so fast.

Things were moving so fast, and we were trying to get so many things set up so quickly that the commanders who were on the ground were not thinking medical, but they needed to be, because if you look statistically, 80-90 percent of your casualties in any war are due to non-battle injuries. They call them DNBI, Disease Non-Battle Injuries. So it's not people getting shot. It's the first thing what do you see when you move in a lot of people, a lot of cargo, you see people get falls. You see people get hurt backs. You see chronic problems flare up. We had amazing number of people with respiratory problems because of all the dust and all the sand, because the sand down there you think desert. Well, you think, you know, the sand like you have on the beach. The sand down there is as fine as powder. I mean it's just like flour, and it would blow. I mean sometimes just violently blow, and that caused a lot of people problems.

So there was early on—the first crew that went down there—we sent one crew to each location. They basically were knocking on doors, and they procured places for them to set up, and then we could start sending them supplies and getting stuff shipped down to them. After that they got—they actually got air medical evacuation. You know, all it took was a few people getting hurt or a few people getting sick, and then they realized, “Oh, my, I think we do need medical,” and then it got fixed. Those people stayed down there a month.

I was deployed with the second group of crews, and we actually sent four full crews from our squadron, and I went down with the second group, and then there was squadrons—I mentioned earlier there's strategic squadrons and there's one tactical squadron, and those are the people who do the short haul runs primarily with 130s, and they're stationed out of Pope Air Force Base, of course, here in North Carolina, good, old Fayetteville. And the commander down there, the overall air medical evacuation commander for the theater was Colonel Bob Brannon, who was the commander at Pope. He went over as the commander, and he decided that he wanted another, one more of his crew down there and one less of the strategic crew simply because they were flying a lot more tactical missions because there were a lot of small bases where they set up throughout, you know, Saudi Arabia and the other countries down there. So I was only down there a little over a month in Desert Storm, but—

HT:

During the month you were there, were you flying back and forth to Germany?

CS:

I actually never flew a mission.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

We had—I did a lot of training, and I did scheduling because we were getting a huge influx of reserve and guard crews.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

It's no longer classified, but at the time it was classified, but the force numbers we were being told was we were expecting to have to move three thousand patients a day, and that we—and I only knew that because when our commander came down right before I left to talk to Colonel Brannon, I was in on the briefing that she got, which was basically the latest at that point. You know, just the thought of having to move that many patients, because we didn't know what was going to happen. Now, it ended up primarily being an air war rather than the ground war, but, again, what were we working on? We were working on the old doctrine, the old plans, and trying—trying to—from a medical perspective I think we were extremely fortunate because the air evac commander who was there was very experienced, and very, very, very smart. Our commander, Colonel Jane Bigelow, was very savvy. In fact she ended up going down to Ramstein, actually, because that was where the theater, the European theater headquarters was. So, you know, we were preparing for really, really ugly numbers.

HT:

So, you must have had a pretty good size medical facility there if you were—had that many patients?

CS:

No—well, but they did was—what you do is you put them in a hangar. You put them—when they come in, ideally what you do when they come in, is you transfer them from off of the airplane they are. You have the other aircraft there, and you do plane-to-plane. You go off of one plane, you put them on another plane. In the meantime, you take them off of one plane and you stage them in a hangar on the flight line, and then you put them on another one. At Rhein Mein, the clinic—and all they had was a very small clinic, two nurses, I think two or three doctors, a couple of , they had about three or four flight surgeons, and then they had, you know, some other support people, some occupational health, environmental health, that sort of thing.

Their job was to set up the air medical staging facility at Rhein Mein. Well, the boxes had never been opened. They knew their commander was very smart. He went to the base commander who they belonged to and said, “Look, you know, you are going to be asking us to do this. If they are talking about casualties coming through, we have no place to put them.” They didn't have authorization at that point to open those boxes to get into them. They said, “Please, let us start getting into them.” So, they did. They took a portion of it and they basically took a big hangar, and, you know, there are whole sets that are put in storage of, you know, foldable beds. Now, a lot of the stuff looked like it was probably World War II and Korean War vintage stuff, and some of it was not useable. You know, after the gloves had deteriorated, and you couldn't use them. Plus, you had to order in your medications because, of course, they're not storing those in there because they're going to expire, and they change, and all that. So, they went on and started setting up.

They ended up having a 250-bed air medical staging facility set up between one big hangar and a sort of an annex hangar, and they used that for—now we never got anywhere near three thousand. I think probably the biggest we ever got in any one day through there was more like three hundred. But, still, moving that many patients in, checking them all, making sure they're getting fed, making sure they're getting their medicines and all that, and getting them back out on to the right airplanes was quite a logistics challenge.

HT:

Did you have to do any kind of triage during this time?

CS:

Well, yes. You do. You triage everybody, because, you know, it was—I can't remember. I want to say about a six-hour flight from Saudi Arabia. So, lots of things can change between there and, you know, getting to Germany.

HT:

And once the patients got to Germany, where do they go next?

CS:

Well, it depended on how soon could you return them to duty basically. Were they patients who could be sent to hospitals in Germany, or in Europe, that could receive short-term treatment and be returned to duty, or were they going to need longer-term treatment? If they needed longer-term treatment they were evacuated to the U.S., simply because, you know, you didn't want to fill up your in-theater beds. You needed to move them on. Somebody with a broken leg is probably not—to use an example.

HT:

So I guess this lasted during the time—Desert Storm was what, about a year's time?

CS:

Let's see. Desert—

HT:

[Ninteen] ninety to '91?

CS:

Desert Shield went from August, I think it was August 4, until January.

HT:

January 17.

CS:

When air war started. And, then, that was '90—'91. I left there in the fall of '91, and they were still—the ASF [aeromedical staging facility] was still up and operational. They were still getting patients back in, not in the numbers, but we were having to run—the other thing that was really challenging is that we were having to almost run parallel operations because you still had all your peace-time operations that had to go on, as well as, you know, basically war-time operations. So, we had guardsmen who were on like extended tours of duty who came and who worked out of our squadron. We set aside some rooms in our squadron, and they ran all the war—time numbers while most of our squa—you know, with some help from our active-duty people; and, then, sometimes you had both patients on the same plane which made it a real challenge. It's quite a logistical challenge, because if nothing else you have to keep all the numbers straight, and they had to keep the numbers of who was coming peace-time versus war-time.

HT:

What kind of hours did you have to keep during this time, was it extended hours?

CS:

Long hours. Long, long hours.

HT:

What did that do for morale?

CS:

You know, it really—I never saw that it was a problem, because I, again, another one of those little moments that you never forget. I had gone home, oh, it must have been probably close to midnight, the night that Kuwait was invaded, or the day that Kuwait was invaded. It would have been at night. I had gone home, and I had no more gotten in the apartment than the phone rang. “Oh, what now?” You know, of course, I pick up the phone and all that I get told was this poor airman who was manning the control center, “Ma'am, I think you need to come back now.” It was like, “Okay, I'll be right there” [laughter and sound like swish, indicating hurrying]. And I found, you know, my old Ford pick-up truck can go pretty fast on that Autobahn [laughing]. It really can go faster than the little speedometer says it can. So that's when I went back. We were working, routinely working, sixteen-hour days, because we were having—many times we were having to work in the clinical coordinators, flight clinical coordinator's area, you know, the computers and things, but then for all the patients that were going back to the U.S., we actually would have to go down to the ASF to see them and to get their records and to go over with the staff down there who was traveling because—

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

CS:

And actually talking about doing what you got to do. I think that's one of the biggest surprises going in the civilian world, is the fact that the mentality is so different. People are much more protective of, you know, they want to get credit for what they're doing or you don't have the teamwork. You know? In the military what you find that people aren't so much worried about, you know, I did this and I did that. I mean there's some of that. You always have some of those people, but it's like, “Okay, what's the job that has to be done, and how are we going to get it done?” And you do what you have to do. “Okay, what do we have?” You never have all the stuff you need to do it with. You never have enough of whatever, but how can we do whatever we need to do with what's available? And it's a very, very different mentality.

There was some—when I was deployed it was kind of interesting because they put—when I first went down to—I was in Riyadh. When I first went down they put us up in a five-star hotel which was, that was okay [laughing]. I liked that just fine! It was just fine. And then basically we were given—we signed in and we ate our meals in the restaurant with everybody else. This is just fine. And then about, I don't know, three or four days after we got there, we got told we were moving, and we got moved to what's called Eskon Village, which actually still exists down there, and it's still used for military people. It was this huge apartment complex, if you will, that had been built by the king for the Bedouins, and they would not use it because he wouldn't allow them to bring their animals into the compound, and so it had never been used.

And, of course, they bused us all in there, and they assign us to—they were like old buildings; and, of course, in their culture the men and the women are separated. So you would have a common area in the middle, and then you would have bedrooms on one side and bedrooms on the other; and we could go up to the top roof, and the roofs were all tiled. So, of course, we had places then to string our clotheslines and do our laundry. We were doing laundry in the bathtub and hauling it up the stairs to the roof, but everything had been sitting for probably about ten years, and it was German toilets, porcelain toilets, and German fixtures. It was very, very well—made, beautiful tile floors, but everything was full of sand, and things wouldn't work. All the plumbing was full of sand. And so you had a little kitchen area in there. Our kitchen wouldn't—our water wouldn't run because sand had collected in everything. I'll never forget. This guy came in, a workman, of course they had poor nationals who were in there doing a lot of the repairs and stuff. This plumber came in and he took parts of the—I don't know if he took the knob or what he took off, because I wasn't in there watching him, but all I know is he took something off and all of a sudden we had water spewing everywhere, and he put it back on, and he basically said, “Okay, all fine,” and walked out. It wasn't his job to clean up, the women would clean up [laughing]. So we had sandy, gritty water, and, of course, we had no mops. We had no rags, no nothing, but, you know, soon we figured out whatever we had and we made it work. But, you know, it was—there was a lot of, you know, didn't take a day before they had the signs up that said, “Air Evac Way this way,” and people were—I came within about two hours of getting a ride on one of the AWACS [airborne warning and control system] airplanes because—I can't remember what we traded with them—

But where our offices were what ended up being almost a little clinic, because we had so many people that were getting heat exhaustion. Because this was in October—September-October time frame—and it was hotter than blue blazes. You know, these young guys who would go out and go running for five miles at noon were not real smart, and then they also came down with—we found out they had a carrier of some kind of gastrointestinal problems who was serving food in the chow hall. So we had a lot of people who came down with a whole wave of GI [gastrointestinal] problems, and we were starting a lot of IVs on those.

But where one of the little villas we had taken over for an office was right near where the AWACS' guys were, the airborne control people, and we traded something with them. I don't know what it was, and they had made arrangements. Two of us were going to get up and go fly with them because we could get off work, but that got nixed just at the last minute. But, you know, one of the guys had taken—within about forty-eight hours you had people who had set up barbeque places. You had people who set up barber shops. You had people who had set up all sorts of stuff. All you had to do was ask around to figure out who was doing what. It was just absolutely amazing. You could tell somebody had transportation, and when they were out there was actually a little—there was a very, very small BX [base exchange], a little exchange in Riyadh because there was some permanent people who were stationed down there. They had a very, very small detachment down there, and they had something that had been set up, and you could tell these guys were probably going through and cleaning out all the hotdogs and ground beef that was there. But, you know, they would come by the public health guys would come by and check them out just like they'd check out their chow hall food where you got wonderful things for lunch like an MRE [meals ready to eat] or you'd get—if you decided you'd get—you could have their prepared meal or you could get an MRE for lunch. Breakfast and dinner were hot meals. Their prepared meals would be things like a bologna sandwich on white meat with butter on it. You know, I was thinking MRE was better than that, but there was some interesting combinations of food.

HT:

And you were there a month, is that correct?

CS:

Actually, you know, I'm stopping and thinking back, because they were there the month of August—I'd actually have to go back and look at my records. I was probably there almost two months because I didn't go home until right before Halloween. So I went the beginning of September and went home the end of October, so it was about two months.

HT:

Did you have any kind of contact with the local population?

CS:

Some. We actually—nurses are always into education, you know, feeding people and education, I think that kind of goes with nursing. And we made connections, because one of the things, if we had somebody who was really acutely ill or who had been badly injured, there's some state-of-the-art hospitals in Riyadh, and it's the capital of a country, and there's a lot of—their doctors and nurses are British-trained or they're European-trained. I mean they've got top-notch equipment, and a lot of the nurses who worked there are Americans and Filipinos who come over and will work a couple of years because it's tax-free income. There are a lot of Filipinos over there and all sorts of service industry. That's kind of another story because they're—the nurses were treated very well. The service like the housekeepers and the bellhops and the kitchen workers were treated—many places were not treated well.

HT:

I was going to ask you if you were ever treated ill because you were a woman, because I know in that culture women are not considered equal to men and that sort of thing.

CS:

When we went downtown—if you wanted to go down and shop, there would times when you could. You always went with a man. Generally, we would go in groups. You wore—we were culture conscious. You wore long sleeves. You wore either long pants or long skirts. None of us, I think, had long skirts. Many of us bought Hijab [modest dress for women], which we didn't have—because it's fairly—I'm going to sneeze.

HT:

I'll turn it off.

[Recorder paused]

CS:

Yes, but they came—you could get the headdress. In fact I have the headdress and the little mask, but it's almost like a—it's sort of like a robe. It's like a length of material with, just sewn up the side, And, you know, you would wear it over your regular clothes, and we would wear that. Now, we were actually told at that time that we were supposed to carry our gas masks with us wherever we were.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

And we'd carry one set of chem gear. Whenever you went from your room to work, you carried that with you, and you carried it back, because we didn't know what was going to go on at that point. We had—but what they found was they sort of suggested to begin with. Nobody wanted to do it, because, one, you don't want to stand out any more than you absolutely have to. At that point it was early enough on that I think they saw us more as potential customers, you know, people to make money off of than those nasty foreigners. I know some of my friends who were there later it got to be—there were restrictions on even going downtown at all. It got to be where you could not go down—you could not go shopping. So, I never had any problems with it.

I know it did get much touchier later, and I know some people who did take gas masks downtown with them were approached. Some tried to have them—I never talked to anybody in particular, but we heard stories about people would try to steal them because they're not in the country to go around, you know, and if these Americans are carrying them, maybe there's really a threat. They would try to steal them. They would try to buy them, you know, so it was almost better just not to go downtown.

But the other thing with air evac is there's something about in your, I think, they do a blood test somewhere along the line and to be able to get an assignment to be an Air Medical Evacuation person you have to believe in the philosophy of shop till you drop, because I swear sometimes when we would take—we did overnights from our squadron from Rhein Mein we did overnights to Turkey, and we did overnights to Rhoda, Spain, which is right down on the Med[iterranean], and sometimes I think we would leave from those places with more personal purchases than we did with [laughing] patient baggage or equipment. I got a couple of—a few really nice carpets and brass and stuff like that I'd be glad to show you [laughing] from shopping expeditions down there, but I did. I did a little shopping when I was in Saudi. I got some nice gold jewelry.

HT:

So it sound like you had—enjoyed your time in Saudi Arabia.

CS:

I did. You know, it was just another challenge. From being a second lieutenant at Wright-Pat, I knew—you know, I hadn't been on the floor probably a month, and I knew this was going to be an exciting career to have when one night I'm on the phone. I'm working nights—night shift—and we're supposed to be getting a patient from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, that they're bringing in by helicopter. He was a prisoner patient, and supposedly he fell in his cell. Okay. So, I get patched through from the operator to the helicopter pilot to find out the status of this patient that is going to be arriving, and I'm thinking, this is going to be a pretty exiting job. I don't know anybody who's done this. So, and that was, you know, I hadn't been in the air force probably six or seven months at that point. So, I've enjoyed that. The military is not for everybody, and people—often I've been asked to talk to so-and-so. Hey, so-and-so is interested in the military. And, you know, I'll tell them, because it's not worth trying a recruiter spiel and telling people, “Oh, it's the most wonderful thing. You'll just love it,” because it's not for everybody.

HT:

Now, by the time you were in Saudi were you a captain or a major by this time?

CS:

I was a captain.

HT:

Captain.

CS:

Actually fairly junior captain. I put on captain—uh, I'd been a captain, I guess, about a year and a half maybe. I put on let's see, June '83, '84, '85, '86, '87—June of '87. So, yeah, I'd probably been a captain about two years.

HT:

And after you left Saudi Arabia, what did you do next?

CS:

Well, I went back to a squadron and worked a lot of hours, and after I got back I found out another little bit news that I was pregnant. I had my son when I was in Germany. But, you know, there were—our commander was just—there were a lot of Desert Storm babies out there.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

Our commander, because, you know, when you're flying air evac you're not supposed to get pregnant, because you can't fly. You can't fly past your fourth month.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

And our commander was just absolutely beside herself, because there were five of us in the squadron who all ended up pregnant [laughing].

HT:

Was that unusual?

CS:

Very. It was very unusual to have anybody, because you knew—it's not that there was any rule that you couldn't, but you were there to fly, and everybody wanted to fly. People—you didn't get a flying assignment if you didn't want it, because there were too many people who did. People begging for them. So, she was—so we were the FCC crew, and, you know, you just work as many hours as you have to work and—

HT:

So, how long could you work while you were pregnant?

CS:

I worked right up until I had my kid.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

Oh, absolutely. I was working—

HT:

No maternity leave or anything? Well afterwards.

CS:

Afterwards, yes. You know, I was healthy. I had no problems. You know, what was I going to do if I wasn't working? Sit around and be sick, you know [laughing].

HT:

So how long were you out on maternity leave?

CS:

Six weeks.

HT:

Wow, that is short.

CS:

Yes, and that's—that was a two-week, generally you got a month, and then that was with the two-week extension that is sort of pretty much standard. Yes, and I found there was a lady on base who started, who I dropped my kiddo off with all bottles made up when I went to work. She had, did home care, and she wasn't at base housing. Drop him off on the way to work and go to work and pick him up on the way home, so.

HT:

And what was your husband doing all this time?

CS:

He was still stationed there, yes. He was working, oh, he was working the same sixteen-eighteen hours a day because they had—with all the traffic that was coming through they were just as swamped as we were, you know, between packs and cargo, because they were going both directions for them. Ours was pretty much majority of it was one direction. You know, they would come in and then they would get disbursed out, but because Wiesbaden [Germany] was still open at that time. The hospital over in—it's actually in Wiesbaden. It was about half an hour drive from Rhein Mein, and that's where—that was the hospital really that supported us. That's where—they had a permanent air medical staging facility that handled the patients particularly because we only did missions to the U.S. twice a week. So they would all gather there, you know, the two or three days before. We would bring them all in there. Then we would do a big mission out to the U.S., because you would—a C-9 can carry up to forty people. Sometimes a little less depending on the number of litters that you have, because you lose seats based on the number of litters. So, but if you have all seats in it, it carries forty people. And, then, you know, you might have a C-140 mission back to the U.S. that was, you know, 120 people or 140 people. So, it was a number of missions that came in from various places.

HT:

So, you did not ever fly in a mission?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

You did fly? Okay.

CS:

I flew probably once or twice a month. I have about a thousand hours in all three aircraft combined. I have about eight hundred hours in a C-9. The other thing that was really kind of neat while I was stationed over there is they had—this was—there was also the little war between Russia and Afghanistan going on—

<
cite>HT:

Oh, yes.

CS:

—at that point in time. But then we were called Afghani Freedom Fighters, which I'm not quite sure where they fit in the picture. I think they are on the other side from us this go round, but—

HT:

I think they—Didn't they become the Taliban?

CS:

I believe so which is kind of a, you know, I think Iran we ran into a few things like that, too [laughing]. But the State Department was doing humanitarian missions into Pakistan, and we would—what our role was from our squadron is every so often they would—about I'd say probably about every couple months—they would do a mission that would then be a medical mission back out, because they had people that were in Afghanistan that were helping identify and collect people and match them up with civilian hospitals in the United States to do surgeries for them for war injuries. So, we—I got a chance to do two missions which was a little bit unusual. Usually you only got one because one just to get everybody an opportunity to do it. It also gave you—at that point in time it also gave you ability to get—you then became eligible for the air combat ribbon, which was pretty difficult for air evac people to get because we just didn't do things to qualify for it.

But we would fly in—you would fly in with cargo into Islamabad, Pakistan, and you never quite knew what was in that cargo because it would have things—I don't—we just always kind of wondered, you know, were they really taking agricultural supplies in there and exactly what it said it was on it. Not that there was anything in particular that clued us any differently, but you just wondered. And then we would—we took an augmented crew basically because the flight was so long. We would fly—first we would fly into Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and we would drop the augmented crew off which for us was three additional—a nurse and two additional med techs—because the return flight was really, really long. And, again, all those rules that you have to remember. If you go over a certain number of hours you have to have an augmented crew. And they actually—the pilots flew with an augmented crew as well because they can only fly so many hours without relief.

“Then we would fly into—we would fly on to Islamabad. They would offload all the cargo, but it was really almost kind of spooky because we weren't near any terminals. It would be pitch black at night. You're all the way down at the end of some runway somewhere. You can't really see anything around, and we would take shifts. Half the crew would go and eat. They would put on this big spread for us. You didn't ask what you were eating. I love different kinds of food, and I can tell you it was all really good, but I have no idea what it was, and I don't want to know [laughing]. It was all very interesting, and I never got sick either, so that was a good thing. But then you would swap and the other people would go eat, and you would finish. We would configure the aircraft. That is where I was talking about where you would offload cargo, and we were expected to configure the aircraft.”

Then we would go, and they would have—the people would have gathered these patients, and these were—they are not what you would think as war wounds with, you know, bloody, nasty wounds. These are—many of them were children. I would say probably half of our patients were children. And they were—most of them were mangled limbs that had healed just terribly awry. You know, little boys with legs that had been—that were just sticking out to the side walking on little wooden crutches, children who had badly mangled hands. I—we heard stories. We would travel with two army interpreters also known as intelligence guys, but, of course, their titles were there to be interpreters. And they had done a number of these missions, and what they would tell you is the kids, the Russians, would fly over in airplanes and do ugly little things like drop—excuse me, the Soviets—would drop dolls with exploding devices in them, and these kids would pick them up, and they would blow off hands. They would blow off fingers or they would put out, you know, eyes. They would just horrible things, and it's like, why?

But we had, you know, then we would pick up older adults who were also going, and some of them had been multiple times were having to have staged reconstructive surgery, but there were quite a number of civilian hospitals here in the U.S. that were providing those surgeries free of charge, and they would come over, and then the State Department would make the arrangements. And I'm sure there was some thought process behind who they chose and what the value was of these people somewhere, but all I know is they were—it was very, very interesting to hear some of their stories.

One of the translators told me about—because what they would do is they would try to talk to these guys and find out what had they seen, what did they know, and this was actually after, you know, there was all this stuff in the news about how the Russians had just packed up all their tanks and they all rolled out, and they were done and the war was over and all that. Well, one of the interpreters told me that, yes, they had that verified from one of the guys who was flying. I think it was one of the—our frequent flyers. He said, “Yeah, they all rolled out, and all the media covered it, and then about two days later they all turned around and rolled right back in,” and things went on just as they had before. So, despite what they said and despite what the world was told, you know, that wasn't really what happened.

It was just—it was interesting to hear it directly from these guys who were out there fighting them, but I think one of the funniest things I've ever seen was, you know, you have to get—because we were flying over the Mediterranean we had to give the over—water life preserver talk, you know, just like you—they don't do it. I guess they don't do it like they used to on the airlines, but—maybe they do and I just haven't flown over water in a long time—but, you know, you have the life preserver and you show how you take it out, and you have to put it on and how you fasten the straps, and, you know, you pull tightly and then you pull the little cords, you know, to inflate it. If that doesn't work you use the little tubes on the side. Well, one of the guys—one of the Afghanis wanted to do it. And it's like, “Okay,” and through the interpreter what we found was this was like his fourth time, and it was so funny because here's a guy and they all wore the—they're not quite turbans but they're sort of these turban mushroom-looking hats, and, you know, their regular normal garb, and here's this guy. You've got all these people clustered out on the tarmac standing around that are going to load onto the plane, and here this guy is in his own language going—you could see him almost know exactly what he was saying, go exactly through the little procedure of how to put the life vest on and how to blow in the little side. It was just—we were just all rolling, because he did it just perfectly fine, and it was certainly was a heck of a lot more effective than us doing it in English and having a translator translate it, but we did.

I got to do two of those missions. We would fly. We would pick up an aircraft load of patients, fly back to Dhahran, pick up our augmented crew who had been resting supposedly. Probably been shopping [laughing] and then fly back to Germany. So, our mission by the time we got back—the second mission when I flew—I got to two of those, because you always have a mix of experienced people and inexperienced people. The second one that I did when we got back to Germany somebody had been—had tipped off the Germans that supposedly drugs were coming in. So, by the time we got back we had—they went through—they brought the dogs out and they searched the plane, and they searched every passenger. They finally let them get on the bus and leave, and then they went in and they took us into the terminal, and they searched every single item in our luggage. And, you know, we were slap happy by then because we had been up almost twenty-four hours, and, you know, it got to the point where they were pulling out some of the crew's polka-dotted underwear and it was like all [laughing] too much, so.

HT:

Were any drugs found?

CS:

Nope. Not that we know of, not that we know of.

HT:

It was a wrong tip, apparently.

CS:

Yes. I—it was interesting, because it was the Germans who came out not the military working dogs. It was the German drug dogs that came out. Now, of course, there were military people there with them, but they work their dogs very differently. Here, if you've ever seen the police shows or whatever, you know, they—the dogs are on a leash, and they're directing the dog as to where they wanted to search for the most part. There, this is a huge, black dog. They just let the dog walk the leash and just said, “Go,” and that dog's running around everywhere. It was just very different. When I talked to a friend later who actually had trained military working dogs and she said, “Yes.” She had been stationed in Germany. She said they work—their dogs are very, very effective, but they work them very differently, and the Afghanis were terrified of the dogs. I don't know if, what their experience, their past experience was, or lack of experience, what they had been told, but they were just terrified of those dogs. So it was never a dull moment.

HT:

So and what was the next for you?

CS:

After that I went to graduate school.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

That's when I went to the University of Maryland. Yes, I got—in fact while I was deployed down to—during Desert Shield I got notification that I had been accepted to graduate school.

HT:

So you actually applied for this as opposed to being ordered?

CS:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, yes. It was real competitive. You had to—a lot more people applied than get accepted. So I got accepted, which was—that was really neat. It was an excellent program, and it's—you know, I had ideas about what I wanted to do in the military in other places. I had never been to a small base. I had been to Wright-Pat, which was a medical center, the second largest medical center. I had been to Scott, which is a medical center; and, you know, I really wanted to go to a small base. Well, when you get a degree in trauma critical care nursing, you're not going to go to a small base [laughing], and I found out very clearly that I was given two choices: I could go to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, or I could go to Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Well, I had said, never, ever, ever do I ever want to go to Texas, and I just didn't like Texas, didn't want to go to Texas, so there was really no choice. I did not want to go to Keesler, but, oh, well.

That—I went, and I worked in—actually I worked first in a coronary care unit in the CCU [coronary cardiac unit] which I wasn't real excited about, but actually really, really enjoyed because it was almost the best of both worlds; because you've got people who are coming in with all sorts of cardiac problems. It's a much more focused sort of care. Our cardiologists there that we had were really good. Very, very willing to teach, very willing to work with any of the people, not just—they had an internal medicine residency at Keesler, and the residents did a rotation through cardiology, but of the specialists in the hospital, the cardiologists were really the only ones who were attendings on a unit in the CCU. Usually there were just consultants, you know, and other doctors were tending.

So it was really neat to work very closely with doctors who were willing to teach and work with you, but the people who came in—there's a saying called—people talk about a teachable moment. In other words, it's that moment in time when people are very receptive to learning, and coronary care is filled with teachable moments because, you know, people were scared. They've got something seriously going on. They don't know—either they don't know what it is or they do know what it is, and then they're really scared, but they are looking for answers. They're looking for, what can I do? Now, do they always follow through? No, but it's your opportunity to help work with them and figure out what lifestyle changes can they make for the long-term to have—you have to learn what are they willing to do, what should they do. You can tell them, and then what are they willing to do and find some happy medium in the middle, because, you know, if you just go in and preach and say, “Well, you have to do this, this and this,” it will never—they won't make any changes. So working with those patients were wonderful. The sad part was many of them I saw multiple times, because at that point in time they had bad enough disease—many of them were retirees. They had bad enough disease that they were going to continue to have problems.

HT:

Most of them were probably elderly.

CS:

Older. I'd say a lot of them were—I mean now I wouldn't say elderly [laughing]. Then I might have. You know, in their sixties. I remember one guy who was only—I think he was only forty-two. He was an active-duty army guy. He had bad family history of cardiac disease, and he had really bad disease. He lived—he was actually stationed up at Camp Shelby, which is up near Jackson, Mississippi, and he was in and out. He had angioplasties, and they put in, you know, stents. They tried to open his coronary arteries and those would always close down. And I was working one Sunday. It was really quiet. We had like maybe one patient, and there was two nurses on, and the cardiologist came in, like the head of the department came in and he said, “You know, so-and-so, just got a call that so-and-so is in the hospital up in Jackson, and we need to go pick him up.” So, well, okay. I called the nursing supervisor and say, “We need to try to arrange transport for this guy,” and there's not, you know, all the nursing supervisor could find was another—they needed a doctor or a nurse to ride in the back, and they needed somebody to drive the ambulance. Well, they could find somebody to drive the ambulance, but they couldn't find anybody to go in the back. I said, “Well, you know, ICU is fairly quiet.” We only had like one patient. I said, “I could go, but I don't know, how stable is this guy? If he's not having chest pain it's probably safe for me to go.”

Because the doctor didn't—I knew the patient. I knew his history very well, and the doctor didn't have any problems with me going. He was going to write orders for anything that I needed. You know, he was on a nitroglycerin drip, and that was about it. So, okay, no problem. We ride all the way up to Jackson which was like a couple of hours. Get up there. You know, I see his wife in the hall, and she's just like so relieved. “Oh, I'm so glad that you're here.” Now, of course, they're not taking care of him. Get in and get talking to the guy. Said, “Okay, now we were told you're not having any chest pain.” He looks at me and goes, “Well, I really am, but I just didn't want to tell them.” It's like, “Ah.” I won't tell you what I was thinking. I said, “Okay, how bad is your chest pain on a scale of one to ten with ten being the worst pain you've ever had in your life,” all that stuff. He knew what I was going for, and he was having like eight out of ten chest pain. I'm thinking, “Okay, so what do I do?” Didn't want to do anything or if they couldn't do anything up there, the cardiologist waiting for you at Keesler. It's like, “Well, okay.” I had a whole little bag of morphine. I had a nitro drip, and I spent the next two, two and a half hours titrating his nitro up and up and up and pushing morphine the whole way, all the way down. Taking blood pressures. I mean because I was taking blood pressures about every one to two minutes, and it was—that has got to be one of the scariest times with a patient. I think it was almost scarier because it was like he had total confidence in what I'm doing, and I'm thinking, just hold on. Just hang on till you get there, because as soon as he hit the unit they basically took him off of the ambulance gurney, put him on one of the regular gurneys and took him to the cath lab, and he had had—was having another MI [myocardial infarction], you know.

HT:

An MI is what?

CS:

A heart attack.

HT:

Okay. Heart attack.

CS:

Myocardial infarction. But, you know, the doctor was very, very glad that he got there, but I think he felt a little guilty that he hadn't at least sent a resident or somebody with me, because I was—I had orders to cover me, but, you know, so technically I was legal, but I really was going beyond what those orders really—the intent of those orders were. Now I was doing exactly what we would have had me do, and the other problem was we couldn't get contact back with the hospital to ask them, because we were, you know, too far out. So—and that was before the time of everybody having a cell phone in their pocket.

But after I was on—worked in the CCU for about—let's see, after June—about a year, I guess. No, must have been two years I was in the CCU, and then I moved over as a nurse manager of the medicine cardiac rehab unit. Was there for about a year, and we were collecting a lot of data on acuity and utilization and review data. Basically looking at who were the patients who were being admitted and why, and did they really need to be admitted. And what we found was there were patients that were getting admitted to the hospital because we had no other way to provide care for them. So, what we ended up doing was closing that unit and converting it over a weekend into what they call twenty-three-hour observation unit, and then a separate nurse-managed clinic.

We had a big four-bed room that we used for manager of the medicine cardiac rehab unit it was all nursing care. We didn't have any doctors associated with it, but what the doctors would do is they would have patients, maybe somebody who came in who needed, you know, maybe they were a cancer patient, and they needed a blood transfusion. Well, they could put them in a little—you've been in a doctor's little exam room. They could let them sit in there. They didn't have the staff to monitor them adequately. You know, their staff needed to be doing other things, and they could have them sit in there for three or four hours, uncomfortable, whatever, or they could write orders, send them up to us. We would do all—we had a nurse who could stay with them, you know, do the every fifteen-minute vital signs, put them in a nice recliner, let them watch TV and they would be more comfortable, and they would get the quality of care that they should. So, we ended up doing complicated wound dressings that when a patient may be the only reason they were staying in the hospital was they didn't have any way to get the dressings done.

This was really before we had access to—military patients didn't have access to the home health care like you see here. So we would do burn dressings, wound dressings, IV antibiotics. We had one guy who would come in before he went to work. He had like—if you get a bone infection, those often need like six weeks of IV antibiotics. He basically was okay, but he needed to continue to get this. So it had to be the right patient, because, you know, you've got to realize you're sending these people out of the hospital with like a saline lock with IV access [laughing]. So you had to know your patient, and they had to be able to take care of it, but it meant that basically they felt well, there was no reason for them to sit around the hospital for weeks. So this guy would go back to duty. He would come in before work. He would come over at lunchtime, and he would come in after work to get his IV antibiotics. You know, it worked for him. It worked for us. It was—he was much happier. His boss was ecstatic. So, things like that.

HT:

It was very cost-effective, too.

CS:

It was. It was much cheaper for the hospital. The patients got better care that way, and we would have like standing orders that we also had generally the same staff who was looking at—say it was a wound dressing. They would look at it multiple times, and they would know whether or not there were changes that were happening, whether or not to call a doctor to come up. And, you know, it was a whole lot better for the doctors for us to do all the—

[End Tape 2, Side A—Begin Tape 2, Side B]

CS:

Okay. Between patients and the coronary, they could just walk upstairs, see the patient, and go back down. So, it was much more efficient for them. And, then, our—we went from a twenty-six-bed inpatient unit to a—I think it was a fifteen-bed outpatient unit, but we were doing same-day surgeries, same-day cardiac catheterizations, lots of things where, you know, we had protocols, and we worked with the physicians. We worked with the surgeons, and we worked with the cardiologists, but things that helped get those patients that were the right candidates home. It was much less disruptive to their lives. You know, they could come in as first cases in the morning, have their surgery. They were generally fairly minor surgeries. You know, do their recovery, get their teaching before they went home, and they could be home by the end of the day. And it was just a whole lot better all the way around, and we hadn't had, particularly for the procedure patients, liver biopsies, kidney biopsies, things like that. There would have been no same-day capability. We'd had same-day surgeries for some surgeries, but this really expanded. You know, the doctors loved it. The nurses loved it because it was—

HT:

Was this something new for the military, or had the private sector already done some of this same type of routines?

CS:

Well, it was doing done in the private sector. It was new—we were the first medical center to do it. There were—I know of one small hospital that was doing it on a much smaller scale, but we were pretty much the first one to do it on a large scale. So, that was kind of neat, and it was really neat that the data showed that we needed to do it. We did it, and then the data afterwards showed that, you know, we were getting the right people. The one big concern people would have was putting patients that were rule-out MIs, ruling out heart attacks, on this unit, because they were afraid that we would send people out of the hospital who then ended up having a heart attack. And what we found that was there were a couple of people who ended up being admitted after their twenty-three hours were up who didn't have a heart attack, but nobody was sent home who shouldn't have been. So, that was—it was really neat that it worked that way.

So then, having all this experience, all this critical experience and working clinic now and outpatient care, it was time for me to move on, at least the air force thought it was. And so my next orders were actually non-volunteer orders to the other place I didn't choose when I left graduate school, so I ended up at Wilford Hall anyway [laughing], and with all this wonderful experience, did I go to the ICU? No. They put me in charge as the manager of the recovery room, which I had no experience in, but it worked out well because all the nurses there—because it's a level one trauma center. It's the only—Wilford Hall, which is at Lackland Air Force Base, is the only level one trauma center in the air force. So we had to have a staff—what they called the PACU, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, had to be staffed twenty-four hours a day, and all our nurses had to be—have skill level like ICU nurses. In fact they did the same training with them that the ICU nurses did. So in a way it sort of made some sense [laughing].

HT:

And how long were at Lackland?

CS:

I was there four and half years.

HT:

Four and a half years.

CS:

Yes. I was the nurse manager for two years in the PACU, and then I went down—while I was there I got an opportunity—Wilford Hall—well, the commander at Wilford Hall at the time was General Carlton, P.K. Carlton, who ended up going from there to be the air force surgeon general, and he was very forward-thinking in how the air force deployed its medical assets. I mean we were way out ahead of the army, in that what they did was they really modularized. They made team, sort of, almost a plug-in-place sort of approach, and he—while he was there he really got some of those first teams started. and I got—one of them was a critical care—they had what they call critical air transport team, which I had worked with when I was at Keesler, and then they had a—they were developing a critical care unit, because the air force actually had never had a critical care unit for their ground base hospital. So then we were developing a very mobile critical care team that could provide a little bit more long-term care on the ground. He also developed a mobile surgical team. Of course, he was a surgeon, so that was right up his ally. And I got involved in that. Went for three weeks on a field exercise, actually happened to be with the readiness squadron commander out at Nellis Air Force Base [Nevada] and we—I ended up kind of talking myself into a job in the radio squadron [laughing] after that. So I didn't make the—we kind of had a joke about the nurse mafia, and how the senior nurses would arrange staffing and arrange assignments and all that the way that they wanted to. He didn't make any points with the nurse mafia when—I think he kind of went to the boss and said that he wanted me down there in his squadron. And somebody got told to make it happen, and they weren't happy about it [laughing].

I was happy. I was just tickled pink, but so I went down to the readiness squadron to run basically their training program; and Wilford Hall had about, let's see, it was about three thousand people, military and civilians, at staff members at Wilford Hall, about I would say probably between fifteen hundred and two thousand of those were military; and they all had to have readiness training every year. Plus, they all had to have disaster response training, and we had disaster teams in the hospital. And they all also had to have training for all these new—because, of course, by this time we had a new surgeon general and he had really rearranged the way air force assets were going to be deployed. So now we were developing all these new teams, and because Wilford Hall, of course, has this huge spectrum of specialties, they had—were given the assignment to develop and build and to be able to deploy a lot of these prototype teams. So, I was having to do—develop a lot of training for everything from nutritional medicine technicians to neurosurgeons. Let me tell you, trying to talk neurosurgeons into doing one more thing, taking on one more additional duty, was quite challenging.

HT:

So it sounded like—by this time you were deep into management?

CS:

Pretty much. I—well, I was teaching. I was—I guess you could say that. I ended up—I was a flight commander for, I guess, about a year. And, then, I ended up as a deputy squadron commander for the readiness squadron. So that was more—it was more administrative but, then, also doing a lot of—I still had all the responsibilities I had before. I just ended up with more, but it meant that I went to a lot more meetings, you know, if the commander couldn't go or, you know, for whatever reason there were too many. I did a lot more of that. So it was much more at the level of, the whole organizational sort of level.

HT:

By this time you were probably a major?

CS:

Yes, I was a major.

HT:

Major.

CS:

Yes.

HT:

And was this your last duty station or—

CS:

No, I went from there actually to the air force surgeon general staff at—I was actually stationed at Fort Detrick, Maryland. They had sort of a satellite office. The air force surgeon general's main offices are in—at Bolling Air Force Base, but nothing is simple in D.C. [laughing], because there were people who were in Falls Church [Virginia]. There were people who were up at Fort Detrick. There were people who were in—actually there were two or three little groups that were up at Fort Detrick. There were people scattered, you know, a number of places in the D.C. area. But that was—I was also doing readiness training there, but it was—I was in charge of the, basically, air force medical readiness training and more the, what medics needed to know. I had the joy of getting to re-write the air force regulation. Well, they're not called—air force instruction. They're not called regulations any more for the most part. That was quite painful [laughing]. To basically say—the air force is unusual in that medics don't belong to the air force surgeon general, if that makes any sense. Probably not.

HT:

No.

CS:

In the army you have an Army Medical Corps. All the whatever general is in the head of the Army Medical Corps or medical service I should say, not corps, the general who is in charge of the Army Medical Service owns all the medics that are underneath him. Well, in the air force the unit commander, like the wing commander, the 59th—well, that's a bad example—81st training wing at Keesler for instance, the wing commander basically owns everybody assigned to that base. You know, there's the feudal oddities about that, but for most part. So, the 81st medical group falls under the 81st wing commander. So technically that wing commander is responsible to organize, train, and equip all those medics. Yet you have this air force surgeon general sitting up in Washington, D.C., who says, “Well, these guys need to do X, Y, and Z to be ready to deploy. Oh, but by the way, wing commander you have make sure that they have the ability to do that.” So it gets very convoluted. It gets, you know, so many things come down to money.

It gets very tricky because the line of the air force, which is over most of your regular airmen officers and enlisted and everybody, and then you've got the other sort of add-ons, like the medical service. You've got the judge advocate general's office, all the lawyers. You've got the chaplains. Those are the three main kind of oddballs, if you will, that are separate services in themselves, but their people really belong to the line of the air force. So my challenge when I was at Fort Detrick was to make sure that we knew what the people needed to be trained on, get that into writing, and then help—because what we were finding is the medics were paying for a lot of this training, because the line of the air force didn't know that they should be. And the line in the air force, it was very difficult for them to understand that what a doctor does in a hospital doesn't necessarily have any relation to what they do when they're deployed, so they need additional training to be able to be deployed. The equipment is different because you can't take what you use in the hospital and haul it out into a field environment. So they almost have to know how to do two different jobs, and they have to stay current in two different jobs. So, they need a lot more training. And that gets expensive.

So that made that job very, very interesting. It was a wonderful job. I was only there about a year and a half before I retired. But it was—I can't say that getting—having to leave work at 5:45 in morning to be at a meeting in D.C. at eight o'clock was any great thrill, but it was exciting. You know, I was there—I got there in January of '02. So, I had just missed 9/11 [September 13, 2001]. That—but it did—I was trained in and pulled a few shifts in the air force command center in the Pentagon, which was quite interesting, at the medical desk. My boss, who was a colonel, had pulled a lot of shifts right after 9/11 at the medical desk. So we were, you know, we were tapped to do a lot of things.

It was interesting, because I worked with a lot of other, you know, I worked with civil engineers. You know, I had to interface with—if you say in a regulation that So-and-so is going to provide such-and-such a support, then you've got to make contact with the people in that other career field and talk it over, and there's a lot of talking that goes on at the Pentagon [laughing] I can tell you. But it was a really fascinating job, and I got to do more along the lines in all this stuff, but when I was at Wilford Hall and, again, was that I had already gone to this other job I got a chance twice. Once I got to go to Hungary to teach a course that—and I also got to go to El Salvador and teach. It was a Disaster System Management course, and basically it's through—the State Department provides funds for other countries for them to purchase things from the United States, and one of the things they can purchase is training.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

And it's sort of, you know, it's an assistance program basically, and there's actually a catalog. You know, for instance, say a country buys F-16s from us. Well, then they also have to buy training to teach their mechanics how to work and maintain those aircraft. Well, there was a course that was set up through, again, this is sort of Gen. Carlton's initiative that was set up to teach disaster response and disaster system development so that we could go to another country and help them set up a country-wide—and this wasn't just military. This was civilian, too. In fact the people we taught in Hungary were their disaster response people came out of their Department of the Interior which I thought was really interesting. It was firefighters as well as their medical response, and they had no country-wide system of medical disaster response. So they get—and what we went and we would show them was one way of setting up a disaster response system. And then, of course, they have to look at what are their governmental issues? What are their—what personnel do they have to plug into this system?

What was really exciting was when I went down to El Salvador that was the second time the team had been down there to teach. They had been down there about a year before, and they had gone down and they taught a mixed group of—now these were military medical people, but down there the organized medical care that is given in an emergency response is all done by the military. I mean they don't have civilian ambulances, but they had—it was a mixed group of folks from El Salvador, people from Honduras, and people from Nicaragua. And it was really the first time that these military people had sat around the table and talked. Now, we're talking about—I mean the class was probably fifty to sixty people, but these were people who had been shooting at each other. And yet, they all came in this class. Well, El Salvador really took it and ran with it and really worked at, you know, how can we organize ourselves to be able to have a response system? How can we, you know, what are the resources that we have that we can do this in an organized way? And about eight months later is when they had all those devastating earthquakes and landslides there, and—whoo, it still gives me goose bumps, because they called back—I was still at Wilford Hall at the time—and they called back to Wilford Hall, and they said, “If it hadn't been for the training that you came and you gave us, we feel confident that many, many more people would have died.” So, it was just like, “Wow.” And then they wanted us to come back.

So they paid—because it was a whole team of people who went. I'd say it was probably, it was probably about ten people, and usually it was—if not all three services at least army and air force combined group who went, because many times we'd get public health from the army because all the veterinarians, now, all the military veterinarians now are army people and not—it sort of is—that's sort of their training is the environmental public health animal piece, because the other thing that we do as part of that course is do—we did a live animal lab for them to teach them. We use a pig model, fully-anesthetized pigs that—and that's one of the reasons you need a vet is because you are intubating, and you're having to do anesthesia basically for about six or eight pigs at a time [laughing]. I mean we're talking, like, big hogs like this big, but to teach them to do some—unlike what you do in the hospital where you do fairly definitive care. You come into an emergency room, and there, you know, you've been in a bad car accident. Well, they're going to do, probably send you to the operating room and do good, you know, a full surgery on you. Well, you can save a lot of lives by doing life-saving interim surgical procedures, and that's what they were teaching the doctors how to do. How to do things that could save people's lives, and then they would have additional surgery hours or even sometimes days later to close wounds, to basically pretty things up, if you will. So we did—we would also do those, the animal lab, and so that was always a challenge. You might want to stop that.

[Recorder paused]

CS:

Now, you don't want to have to go through this again [laughing].

HT:

Let's see. I forgot what we were talking about when the tape went off. Emergency room and hogs. Oh, and El Salavador, and these hogs, and then you were practicing, I guess, showing them?

CS:

Yes, they—the surgeons who went down were basically teaching the other surgeon how to do some of these life-saving procedures.

HT:

And hogs are very similar to the human?

CS:

They are very, very similar. In fact you use the same medicines on them that you use in surgery, but their metabolism is so much faster that we have to use about ten times as much drugs. So—and we have to take all the stuff in. It gets a little touchy. We have to have a really good in—country contact, because when you try to go through customs in these other countries with enough narcotics to, I mean, you could live high on the hog for a long time over there with all the drugs we took, but simply because you have to take all your supplies with you. We take all the surgical instruments. We had huge, big, Rubbermaid sort of containers that would be like cable-tied shut, and then I mean enough narcotics to do surgery for a day in Greensboro. I mean it was a tremendous amount, but it was—and then they are euthanized when we're done with them. So it's very, very humanely done, and it's overseen by a veterinarian. It's done under very stringent research protocol—

But it's—it was so neat for me—these people when we went—particularly we went down there because it was the second time we'd been, and they had seen the direct results of it. And they were just like sponges. They wanted to know, and they—it's interesting to get a chance to talk to them about their systems and how we do things a certain way and help them talk through how they might take what we do and apply it with, you know, the constraints that they have. Because down there, being a relatively poor country, of course, they're very resource—constrained, and, you know, what do they have? How can they use it? And they have been really creative. They were very proud to be able to take us around and show us how they had taken these lessons and they had drilled their people. They had actually done like little exercises before this disaster struck. So their people knew where they were supposed to go, what they were supposed to do, and they were much, much more efficient than they had ever been in the past. And that was really neat.

HT:

That was really great, and then I assume shortly thereafter you got out of the service?

CS:

Yes.

HT:

About 2003? What made you decide to retire?

CS:

Well, I guess, one, I hadn't been promoted and, two, I had aging parents. I had aging in-laws who lived down in Goldsboro [North Carolina], and it was just—it was time to come home. And it ended up being really be a very good decision. My father-in-law died about six weeks after we moved home. He'd been—he wasn't that old, but he had a lot of medical problems. And, you know, I really think it was probably—he was hanging on until we moved back, I really think. Then my dad passed away a year ago July. And so, you know, it was—I was very glad that we came home and Nate had a chance to get to know all of his grandparents. You know, I'm not sure how many kids are out there, teenagers are out there, that have two sets of living grandparents. So that was good, and it also let him settle down in one place for his high school years.

HT:

What kind of adjustment was it for you to leave the military and look in the civilian—

CS:

[laughing] Well, it's definitely a different world out there. I didn't go back to work right away. You know, there was lots of things to do, moving and, you know, so it was kind of a nice luxury to not have to go back to work, not have to find a job as soon as I got out. Bill, well, I'm trying to think of the timeframe. Actually neither one of us got jobs right after we came back. We worked on the house, worked on the yard, can't tell right now, That sort of thing.

Then I got—actually I had applied for a job at UNCG as a health educator, and I got a call from a friend who was a nursing professor, Dr. Pat Chamings, over at the School of Nursing. She's been a family friend for many years and is also retired air force reserve nurse. And she said, you know, “What are you—are you working right now? Do you have a job?” I said, “No. I had applied for this job but I didn't know if I was going to get it or not,” and she said, “Well, you know, why don't you check and see whether or not you get it, and something you might be interested in hearing about.” So I didn't get the job. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't really all that qualified for it just sounded—it sounded really neat. What they really needed was more of a public health type educator.

And so I went and talked with Pat and some other folks about a company that was a start-up company here in town called Strategic Staffing Resources, and they worked with internationally educated nurses helping them get their license and do immigration papers to come to the United States. It's been—I've been with them—I took a position with them. It was March of '04. Yes, and I've been with them ever since. It's been a really rocky road. Funding is always very, very difficult with a start-up company. So I'm sort of working just off and on with them right now. Hopefully, the first of February we're going to be seeing some money from them.

And I'm doing other part-time work, a health fair yesterday, did a lot of flu shots this fall. I have given more flu shots than I think I've given immunizations the rest of my career [laughing]. I've done a lot of those working for a couple of different companies, and gotten some training. At one of the companies I'm working with is—they have a small urgent care place over here on Friendly [Avenue]. It's called U.S. Healthworks, and the thing that's really interesting about them is that they do most—about 90 percent of their business is occupational health. So the flu shots that I'm doing I've been going onsite to the businesses around town, which has also been very enlightening because I've learned that there is a heck of a lot more going in Greensboro than I really realized. It's, you know, to go out to the workplaces and having a chance to talk to people and find out what do they do, and what's their business and that sort of thing. So, that's been very interesting. I've gotten some training in things I didn't ever expect. I'm now certified to do DOT—Department of Transportation—breath alcohol tests and drug tests [laughing]. So,it's still, you know, piddling a little bit of this and that.

HT:

Do you miss the air force?

CS:

[Pause] Yes and no. I miss the people. I made some really great friends. I don't miss the long hours, and the not being able to do the volunteer work I wanted to, and missing events for my child, and, you know, things like that. Now I can make it to every band booster meeting, and I can be a chaperon for the football games for the marching band and for the parades, and I work three hours a day as a volunteer over at the Natural Science Center.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

Which is very near and dear to my heart, because that's the first place I had a job ever, you know. When I was in high school I worked there and had been there as a sort of a junior curator when I was still in high school. So I kind of grew up over there as a kid. So, you know, having—and being able to just—when Hurricane Katrina hit, you know, calling a friend who does a lot of volunteer for the Red Cross and say, “Hey, I've taken these courses, do you need any help?” And then ended up working a lot of hours [laughing].

HT:

Locally?

CS:

Locally with the Red Cross, but having flexibility in a job that my boss said, “Hey, you know, if that's something you need to go do right now, go do it,” and I worked a lot of days for them, because we had an amazing number of people either making—come here because they had friends or family, or got this far headed somewhere further north and east and ran out of money, ran out of gas, whatever, and just stopped here. At that time—let's see. I had to go out of town at the beginning of October. By the end of—I'd say by the beginning of October they had served over—it was somewhere—it was almost four hundred families, not individuals. So, you know, I did a fair amount of casework, and they had quite a few—they had even set up—they ended up setting up two satellite places to do casework from. So that was interesting, but—and those are things that I wouldn't had—I'd always wanted to work with Red Cross. So, you know, I took some classes, whatever, did a couple of classes so that I'd be qualified, and, you know, that was really neat, and I wouldn't have been able to do that in the military, so—

HT:

It sounded like you had long, long hours?

CS:

Yes, but it was never dull.

HT:

And you got to travel.

CS:

I got to travel. I got to see places. I got to do teachings and briefings and go places and do things I never would have been able to do otherwise. I guess part of what sort of motivated me to do that—when we were living in Tucson, I was working as a nursing assistant, and knowing that my plan was to go on to nursing school, and I saw nurses who had been on that same—it was a respiratory unit, and you could figure a respiratory unit in Arizona [laughing] it had its good days and its bad days, depending on what time of year and how many snowbirds there were, but I saw nurses who had been there twenty years on that same unit. They came to work every day and they went home every night, and I thought, “I can't do that. I would go stark raving mad.”

And, you know, I never, ever regret going in the air force. It was—and you know I'm really—it's interesting. I had to do the jury duty thing last week, you know. First time—it's the only second time ever I've been called for jury duty. Ended up on what was a surprisingly involved case, you know. Jury duty for five days and, you know, it was really neat because I spent twenty years insuring that I could do that. It's interesting working with these international nurses. Talking to them about why do they want to come to the United States, and the consistent answer I get from them is, “It's for my family. It's for my kids. It's for a future because”—now, most of the nurses we are working with are from Eastern European countries: Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, former Soviet countries, who are in some ways better shape, not always, but they have the training. They have—overall, they have excellent education. The biggest challenge is just to learn the difference in the U.S. healthcare system.

HT:

And what about the language?

CS:

They speak amazingly good English.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

And part of what they have to go through, the language test that they have to take for immigration, are, you know, I would say the majority of Americans wouldn't pass [laughing]. They are very, very difficult. I wouldn't want to have to take them, and they have to come—and these are experienced people. Many of them were actually physicians in their own country, but they were educated as nurses first, then became physicians. But it's very interesting to talk to them.

We have to do kind of a little orientation with them when they come over to do orientation here or to do further take their licensing exam here, because often they are here with us for a little period of time and then they are out and about in the community. We have an apartment that was right over the offices right in Guilford College, and we had an apartment that was nearby, and, you know, it was really convenient. The apartment was right behind Harris Teeter [grocery store]. Then they've got shopping. They've got places to go. They can get on a bus if they need to, but they Strategic Staffing Resources—one thing that we have had to tell every group that has come is that if you get somewhere where you are lost and you don't know where you are, the best person to ask is a policeman or someone in a uniform; and that is so—they just—many of them believe it or not don't believe us, because in their country that's the last person you would ask.

We had two of our nurses who were down doing their orientation down at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, and they went out after dinner for just a walk, you know, they were staying at a little hotel there. They went out for a walk, and they got turned around and weren't sure exactly where they were, because Presbyterian is right downtown, and it's also not very far from the main police station downtown. They basically got lost, and they remembered what we had told them about asking a policeman, and from their story that they told us is they really hesitated because they didn't know what would happen, but they stopped—they saw a policeman and they asked him. They told them where they were trying to find, and he, of course, heard their accents. These were two Romanian girls, and he said, “Oh, where are you from?” What I would classify as the typical Southern gentleman sort of helpfulness, you know, “Where are you from? Okay, what do I need to do?” He, the policeman, got another policeman in his police car to take them back to their hotel, you know, and just chatted away with them all the way, you know, “Glad you're here. We always need nurses,” that sort of thing. They were absolutely floored. They couldn't believe that it was such, you know, these two policemen ended up being so nice to them. You know, it's just little things like that. There are so many things in living in Europe—I saw how much Americans take for granted what we have, the freedoms we have, the opportunities we have, you know, the extraordinary healthcare system. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, it's a very different philosophy of living in European countries than it is here. Here, you know, it's expected that everything and anything will be done for you. They are in some ways much more realistic, but it's—I think it's a great opportunity per my personal philosophy. This will never come to pass, I'm sure. My personal philosophy is that, you know, every young person needs to do at least two years of service to their country. Will it happen? No, but—

HT:

I think about the only country that probably does that is maybe Israel?

CS:

No, there's a lot of them.

HT:

Oh, okay.

CS:

There's a number of countries that still do, the men.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

Not women necessarily but the men, and it may not be what we think really of military service, but they do government sort of service, but—You didn't get through very many cards there, Hermann [laughing].

CS:

Well, believe it or not, you have answered most of my questions, because we've touched on so many things—or you've touched on so many things. Well, I usually ask this question for the women who have served in World War II. This may not be applicable to you, but in your twenty years in the service, did you ever encounter any kind of discrimination because you were a woman?

HT:

No, actually I didn't, and part of it, I think, was because I'm in a predominantly female profession, but—and I think nurses are hardest on nurses. When you look at promotion and going, you know, up the ladder, if you will. I think there's an old saying, “nurses eat their young.” And nurses can be very hard on other nurses, and I'm not really quite sure why, but in fact I think I was—I was given jobs based on my ability much more than I probably would have been in the civilian world. I think my timing was good or I was lucky to be born when I was, because I think I hit past the time—and just talking to friends who were nonmedical people, I'm sure it happened. And, you know, everywhere you go you're going to have still have people who think women are second-class citizens. But I think as a rule I never had any problems with it, and I don't know of any of my nonmedical friends who did either.

[End Tape 2, Side B—Begin Tape 3, Side A]

CS:

But I think I probably answered that.

HT:

Okay. In 1999 you received a Tri-Service Research Award.

CS:

Yes.

HT:

Can you tell me about that?

CS:

Well, it was a research—actually it was a research grant to do—we got a little supplemental grant. It ended up being almost four hundred thousand dollars to study nurse skill sustainment. One of the things I think I've probably talked ad nauseam about [is] medical readiness training, and we had rules that said, “You will be trained. You know, every two years you need to repeat this training,” or “Every year you need to have certain training,” but there was no basis to say, it was just sort of somebody's gut feeling of they thought, and what we wanted to do was we wanted to look at some critical skills that nurses had or they needed to have to—

[Recorder paused]

CS:

What we used part of the money for was to buy a Human Patient Simulator, which was called Stan. It's made by a company—it's actually the only simulator which has true physiologic response to the treatments that you do to it. It's a computer algorithm. We took a little room—at the time when I was down at—this was when I was down at Wilford Hall down at Lackland. We had—a part of what I oversaw was a thirteen-acre field training site including our own airplane and helicopter and all the static ones and all this stuff, and I had a staff of trainers out there, and we took one little room that was almost not much bigger than a giant walk-in closet and made it look like sort of a pseudo-field setting. You know, painted the walls dark green and hung camo netting and all that. Although the air force rarely uses camo netting—at least in the medical aspect—but we divided off the room because you had to have room for this great, big rack of computers and servers and stuff, and then we had monitors back there, and then all these cables connected to Stan.

And so the nurses could—we had scenarios—the research study—ideally, we would have looked at two-year time point and probably a three-year time point, but what we ended up—because just the timing and the funding and you have to fit certain cycles. We ended up looking at eighteen months and—I'm sorry. We would have looked at one-year and two-year. We looked at one-year and eighteen months for training periods to see how well they retained. So, we did initial little training experience with them where we went through four different types of scenarios, and then at the one-year and eighteen-month point brought them back in and had them go through similar scenarios looking at the same skills.

And what we did was we pulled from the data of what are the probably top four life-threatening or most common injuries that these nurses would see in a deployed setting. And we looked at—we were also concerned when we looked at what of those of what are the ones that the nurses are least likely to see in their every-day nursing setting, because it's a little bit distressing that we're getting more and more nurses into the military that don't have a lot of experience or are fresh out of school who end up going straight into an outpatient setting and don't get a good med[ical]-surg[ical] basis. They're going into a clinic instead, which is not really a good way to give them a good foundation in nursing care.

So we looked at a burn patient. We looked at an orthopedic injury. We looked at a head injury, and we looked at—we started off with anaphylactic, an allergic reaction basically just to a bee sting, because the other thing that we found that nurses in the hospital—generally by the time that the nurse sees a patient the patient has seen—been seen by one, two, three or more doctors already; and, you know, there's all sorts of information already written down. So, nurses as the whole are not very good at doing history taking, you know. They can do basic physical assessment, but they're not really good at history taking because so much of it is done for them. So, we were giving them some basic skills knowing that the nurses are going to have to function much more independently in a deployed setting. So we give them—gave them some pneumonics. We gave them some little cards that they could stick in their bag that they keep packed to deploy. Then we went through these scenarios, and the mannequin that we used was smart enough that if they would say, “Okay, I'm going to give IV epinephrine,” we gave them a, you know, they could get it out, and there's a barcode on the syringe, and there's—where they would inject there's a little barcode reader, and it measures how much of that material is injected, and then the mannequin—their blood pressure and their heart rate and their whatever else responds appropriately for the medication that they gave and the amount that they gave. So it's very, very lifelike.

HT:

Does Stan ever die?

CS:

Yes, Stan does die. We really tried to not have Stan die, because it was amazing to be in there. We'd have one instructor and then four or five students. Usually by the end of the first scenario at least half of the students were talking to Stan like he was alive, like he was real, because his eyes would blink, and his chest would rise and fall, you know, just like a regular human.

HT:

I've seen Stan on TV.

CS:

Have you?

HT:

Yes.

CS:

Yes. Just absolutely amazing. And, then, the other instructor would be sort of like The Wizard of Oz behind the panel doing evaluations of the students. We were looking at terms of what they were doing and what they were missing. And then also watching them, we had little monitors, you know, bought from Radio Shack, little monitors so we could see what was going on in the room. Then we had a second set of eyes looking at the whole dynamics of the group, because they changed off sort of being the leader, and they—but if Stan did not do well the students would get very distressed. It was very upsetting for him, because the person behind—they could ask Stan questions.

They are so—in a training environment we're so programmed to have an instructor there that, you know, always have to give you the feedback, but we wanted to try and do take—have the instructor there as a support for the nurses, but have the nurses interact directly with the patient. So the person behind the window, behind the wall, would be the one who would answer. There was a microphone so it was like Stan was talking, and by the end of about the first, if not the second scenario, they would actually start to talk to Stan, and you could tell like the mental health nurses or the OB[stetric] nurses who weren't real up on the med-surg, they'd be sitting there. They'd pat Stan's arm or they would pat his shoulder, and it was just amazing that, you know, they would end up so much really immersed in that environment in that situation.

But I don't have the results back of this. I have the interim results. There wasn't a whole lot of difference between the one-year time point and the three-year time point—I mean the eighteen-month time point. What was really striking was we got feedback from everybody who went through, and to my knowledge there was not a single—we had comments—they thought it was very stressful. They thought, you know, but we want more. You know, we need to do this more often. You know, we want more scenarios. We want more time. They all loved it but—we had first found out about it because they were using it. They had it—one of our anesthesiologists had—was going to school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I think it was the University of Florida. Anyway, it's in Gainesville where were actually—he was in on the design and development of this and knew the people in the company and got a loaner up there that they had that they were using in the anesthesia providers, because you can do—the full version of it you can do full anesthesia and it reacts just exactly like a human would even getting anesthesia, and that's where we had first seen it, and the results were sort of the same there. They felt like it was almost too real, so.

HT:

It's just amazing. Well, just a few more questions, but as I said earlier you've answered most of them.

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the military?

CS:

[laughing] I think the litter obstacle course [laughing].

HT:

Can you describe that?

CS:

Oh, yes, surely. [Pause] That probably was it. You have to do—every year you have to go to continuing medical readiness training, and not all locations have like a training site unit. Some places you go and it's more of a classroom sort of thing, but I've had the great privilege [laughing] to be assigned at a number-one, big places, of course, had more money, and they were able to invest a little bit more in training. So there's been two or three places where I've had—I've been able to do litter obstacle courses where it's like doing—if you think about a regular obstacle course—

HT:

Yes.

CS:

Where you have things that you have to crawl under and things you have to go over and, you know, low walls and high walls. The low wall's like four feet high, and the high wall's six feet high. Well, you do the same thing except on the litter obstacle course there's four people, a litter, and somebody on that litter. And you have to, you know, you may have a low crawl under barbed wire where you see, you know, think of an old War World II soldiers crawling under barbed wire. Well, you're doing the same thing, but you're having to do it—and you have to learn—first they teach you all the litter carries: four-man carries, two-man carries, uphill carry, downhill carry, how to do what they call litter post carry, how to turn your litter, because you always—the patient—well, with one exception the patient always travels feet first. So, depending on the terrain—now if you are going uphill you turn him around and you take him head first. Heaven forbid you were to fall and you were to drop them, then they would go down feet first [laughing].

But, see, you learn all that stuff, and you get to practice all that stuff, and then you have to go out and you go through—and I had very—at Wilford Hall we had a really spiffy little obstacle course, and I had very motivated instructors out there who just loved getting, you know, yelling at the students. Not nasty things or bad things, but, you know, hurrying them along or putting a little pressure on them so they'd get through. But you had to—when you go under—when you crawl, you have to crawl to the side, and you have to scooch to the side, because, you know, to prepare to lift, and then everybody lifts at the same time, and you inch the litter forward. Hopefully, you're not jarring the innards out of the person who's on it, but you have to be to the side otherwise you're either kicking the person behind you in the head, or you're kicking dirt in their face, which doesn't make them very happy. You know, if you are in the end it's okay, but doing that. You know, going over that six foot wall, a pretty much flat wall, is not easy, and the first two people have to go over. No, you put the litter up, then you have to get over without kicking the patient, and then you have to move the litter forward and, hopefully, you don't have like one really short person who can't lift it up, because you don't want to drag it, because that person sagging in the canvas underneath, and you are going to run that board right up their back. And they're likely to beat you when you get done, but, you see, you have to lift them and then you lift them again to get them by the stirrup so they don't fall off, and then the other two people have to go over. That's—

HT:

So are you sometimes the patient as well as the—

CS:

Yes.

HT:

Okay.

CS:

You try to get the smallest people possible to volunteer to be patients, but they—

HT:

And the lightest people.

CS:

Yes, and the lightest people. They rarely will volunteer more than once [laughing].

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally while you were in the military?

CS:

Oh, wow. [Pause] Well I think there's sort of a draw there in my mind. I think probably one of the toughest things, one of the things that I—upset me the most was leaving from Riyadh and having to go back to Germany, because that's, you know, that's what I was in the air force for, was to be there and to deploy and to do that mission, you know, and specifically the air evac mission. And, you know, that was—I—none of our crew—we were all really upset that we had to go home. It was almost like, “What have we done? Why are you sending us home?”

It's probably between that and I had a nurse who had been moved from the emergency room up to my unit. I don't know why. I always seemed like I got the problem children, whether it was performance issues or behavior issues or whatever, and, I got to say, I think, you know, some of them are never going to be Clara Bartons, but they all ended up being good, solid, safe, effective nurses except one, and that was a nurse who was moved up to me. I didn't know exactly what was going on, and it ended up she had a drug problem, and that was very painful because it was a very—actually it was an amazingly long process, and I ended up testifying at her court martial right before I left.

HT:

Oh.

CS:

Yes, that was—and I think it was very, very painful because she never did seem to, you know, I think she had some mental health problems. She never would admit—we tried to get her to admit that she had a problem and to get some help, and then we went through lots and lots of stuff with her, and then, finally, she got caught. And then it got real ugly, and, that, I think, that was really, really tough.

HT:

Do you ever recall being afraid or being in physical danger?

CS:

[Pause] Not that I recall. Nothing really sticks out in my mind. Either I was too stupid to know I should have been [laughing]—

HT:

What about embarrassing moments? Do you recall anything specific?

CS:

Um, I think I bluffed that one out. I'm sure there were some somewhere along the line [laughing]. You know, hesitant has not been one of my strong points. Just that did not—it's not really been my professional personality.

HT:

Do you recall any particular humorous moment that sticks in your mind?

CS:

Nothing—there have been, and I'm not thinking of anything right now.

HT:

I think you've probably covered some humorous moments in the discussion earlier, so.

Well, do you recall who your heroes and heroines were from that period of time, the twenty years that you were in service, and it could be—it doesn't have to be a national figure. It can be someone local, family member or something like that?

CS:

[Pause] I don't know. I still think going back to Dr. Lewis. I think I always wanted to be as good a nurse as I think she was, and, you know, and I never—I never saw her other than as an educator, but it's just—she made such an impression on me. I'm trying to think if there is anything else—I think, you know, along the lines there's been some people who have been mentors, people who have gone out of their way to help you. As you grow both as a person, as an officer, as a nurse, you know, I've had people who have, more senior people who have helped me understand the system, understand how to, you know, not always what you think you want is really what you need, at that point in time, and help you understand why when you don't get what maybe is the best thing. You know, what you get with the system gives you that sometime—and I think that helped me. I never had a bad assignment, and I think that helped me not ever have a bad assignment in that assignments that I really dreaded going to, things that I really didn't like. I was not thrilled about going to Mississippi, and it was—I wouldn't want to go back and live there, but it was a great assignment, and I think I had people who helped me see that more the outlook of, you know, kind of the make the best of it sort of mentality that, you know, this is what you've been dealt. You can either make yourself miserable, or you can do something—and it's the people who do the best with whatever they're handed are the ones that are then going to get more later on down the line.

HT:

Are there national or international events that really stand out in your mind that occurred during your twenty years in the military that sort of affected your military career or changed it, perhaps?

CS:

[Pause] Well, I think for different reasons a couple of different things. One of the neat things about being assigned a 2nd Air Medical Evacuation squadron was because they had—generally were the ones who got tapped for the special missions like bringing the hostages home from Iran, bringing Terry Waite home, the—what was he, British?—guy, bringing [hime home. Because you have that whole series on hostage situations, and because there's always a medical element—now, I never flew on any of those missions, but I think that assignment and my last assignment at Fort Dietrick were the two that helped me understand the air force the best, because in a flying assignment you have to understand how the line of the air force works, how the fliers work. I mean what's the mission of the air force? You know, to fly and fight, and such a very, very small portion of the air force really has very much to do with those airplanes. I mean there's actually a whole lot more maintainers, but there's so many more support people. Everybody from the civil engineers to the people in finance, to the people in personnel, to the medical people. All of that, we are all there to support the pilots, really, and I really got to see the operational side of the air force that very few medics get to see. See, I understood the workings of it a whole lot better. The other—and I think because of that the world events I got to see a—I got a much better picture of them, but I think 9/11. It kind of came near the end of my career, but it—it impacted—it was almost a validation, I guess, if you will, of the things that I had spent the last three or four years helping to bring about, and that was a major transition in the air force medical service and our ability to do our job in a very short period of time. The army is still struggling to catch up. They have—Hurricane Allison went through Houston in 2001? I believe it was—no. It was either 2000 or 2001, and I don't know. You said you had family—

HT:

My sister lives in Houston. I've heard her talk about Allison, but I can't remember the date either.

CS:

I do remember—it must have been, I think it was 2001. My boss, who was the squadron commander, had gone to—he'd gone to some school that was like two weeks long, and he had just left. So that sort of left me in charge, and then our group commander was—had been the physician. He had come in to cover for another physician about twenty-four hours before the Khobar Towers bombing in Beirut [Lebanon, in 1996]. So, he was the flight surgeon there who had to direct all the response to that disaster. Well, we got a phone call—this is kind of flipping back and forth. I'm now back in San Antonio, and Doug Robb, who was—Colonel Doug Robb—who was our group commander, basically we're getting news Houston is like a disaster. Their hospitals downtown were just—pardon the pun—fried, because most of the generators were all in their basements and they were all flooded. They had—it was literally a medical disaster, and so we got told—and it ended up being quite a touchy—there's a very defined—Now, things have changed since Homeland, the Department of Homeland Security, has come in, but there's still very defined guidelines as to how military response can happen within the continental United States. Well, basically, we got a phone call from our air force surgeon general who says I want a hospital in Houston, and I want it now. Now, of course, this used to be the commander of our [unclear], but he's only a two-star general. I don't know if he is two or three at that point in time. He since after that got his third star. You know, “Yes, sir.” So we worked on making it happen and we—

[Recorder paused]

CS:

But, so, we worked on getting through the wickets. So, basically, we ended up sending a hospital to Houston and set it up in Reliant Hall which is attached to the Astrodome. So that was the modularized—we had that there. Now, we would have had it a little sooner, but they didn't want us bringing it in at night. We had that there—we had a twenty-five-bed hospital with specialty care, critical-care capabilities and the staff to run it, the supplies to run it. They would have been there within twenty-four hours, but they told us hold off a little while so they could get here during the daylight. So, of course, we sent them off in the dark at five o'clock in the morning so they were there at the crack of dawn. After—when 9/11 hit, it—we were able—you know, the army—I'm kind of bouncing back and forth. I apologize. The army said it would take them twenty-five days to respond versus twenty-four hours, because all they had was a big—I can't remember, a huge hospital, like 125-bed hospital was the smallest thing they had, and it would take them that long to get it together, to get the staff, to get it packed up, to get it loaded and transported. Because the army really was the lead agent who should have been the one to respond. So I think it was really a validation when 9/11 hit that we were also able to respond again. We sent some teams to hither and yon, but they weren't needed, thank goodness. But so that was neat; and, then, the things that came out after that, I think, we were very well positioned that then we could refine the system and refine that documentation, what, you know, we had so many lessons learned that I think as a service it was—you know, for me personally it was kind of a pivotal even, and then as a service it was also an event that was used in a very—a very tragic event that was used in a very positive manner.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

CS:

Yes.

[Both laughing]

HT:

And did the military make you that way, or were you born—

CS:

Oh, no, I was not born that way. I think the military has had a lot to do with it.

HT:

Well, let's see. I generally ask these questions of ladies of WWII, but I think it might apply to you. Do you consider yourself to be a pioneer, a trailblazer, or a trendsetter in any way?

CS:

[Pause] No, not really. Not generally in the respect that they were. You know, kind of looking at it in that light, not really. I mean, yes, I did some things that were—hadn't been done before, but not any, any shadow like the things that they did.

HT:

Well, what impact did you think having been in the military for twenty years has had on your life?

CS:

I've got a lot of good stories to tell [laughing]. Um, I think it has been very, very satisfying. I think the air force did a lot for me as well as things I did for it. You know, I think that I've had experiences. I've got a wealth of experience. Everything from clinical experience, you know, really hard-core good nursing experience to management experience. You know, I've had Covey classes. I've had training, you know, skunk work stuff. You know the air force—the one thing they really do is they really, you know, it's not always well-coordinated or well-integrated, but there is—they are very much aware of the fact that you nurture and you build and you support your staff, and, you know, your performance is better. So, I think it has done a lot for me as well as putting in a lot of hours. I think it is very satisfying to know that I'm very proud that I can say I'm a military retiree. You know, and I've got a son who wants to go in the military? I don't know if his flat feet will let him in, but you know? We'll cross that bridge on down the road.

HT:

Well, how do you feel about women being in combat positions? That sort of took place during your time.

CS:

It did. And as a just sort of as a rule, I have no problem with it. I think any more, you need the right woman just like you might need the right man. You know, it's not the combat that's the issue. Having babies isn't any piece of cake, but I think we're in the military to serve our country. I think that, you know, a ninety-pound weakling if they can't do the job shouldn't be in it, whether they're a man or a woman. And I think that that's where the military is headed. I think they are more worried about public perception than—I think it is more of an external thing than an internal thing. I don't have a problem with it if they're capable of doing the job whether it requires something mental or something physical. Go for it.

HT:

Well, would you join the air force again?

CS:

Oh, absolutely.

HT:

Well, Cathy, I don't have any other questions.

CS:

[laughing]

HT:

Do you have anything you would like to add to this interview?

[Both laughing]

CS:

Oh, no, I think I've—

HT:

We've covered so much this afternoon.

[Both laughing]

CS:

Yes, I probably blabbed quite enough, but it's been a pleasure.

HT:

Thank you so much. We really appreciate it, and just can't thank you enough.

CS:

Come back again. I got a lot more stories to tell [laughing].

HT:

Great.

[End of Interview]