Q&A with… Dawn Rice Flight Nurse in the Air Force Reserve

Dawn Rice Air Force Reserves

Q1 : What has been your life’s greatest thrill so far?

“There have been many! Probably most thrilling has been being a mother and grandmother. I’m about to have my fourth grandbaby born and I can’t wait! Of course, serving on deployments and caring for the wounded warriors is a highlight of my life. It is such an honor to be able to care for them. I was in the Air Force for eight years and then out of it for 20 years while I became a nurse and raised a family. During the height of the war, I felt pulled to go back in as a flight nurse. I had been a trauma nurse for many years and felt I was still young enough and healthy enough to serve – even at 44-years-old at the time. ”

Q2: As a military nurse, what do you find most challenging about your career?

“The hardest part is the time away. I am currently completing my third deployment in five years, and have had many days and weeks away for training as well. It’s hard not to be home and miss those precious family moments. It’s difficult to live the two lives of the ‘reservist’ because we still have to train and be ready at all times to respond to a natural disaster or military threat. I also have to give my full-time job (Parkview Home Health & Hospice) 100-percent, let alone try to be a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend, etc. Being away has been a burden to my husband but thankfully, he has always supported me because he knows my heart to serve. When I was in Afghanistan in 2009, I heard later it was the deadliest month of the war. We were bombed daily. For my family, that was a constant worry. It was rough knowing they were afraid for me.”

Q3: What would surprise people about you?

“Most people (although not those who know me well) are surprised when I tell them I have my own Harley. I was an only girl with three brothers, so I know how to ‘play’ like a boy. Happily, I married a man who is even more of a motorcycle lover than me, so it works well.”

Q4: What is your job like?

“I am a flight nurse in the Air Force Reserve and my unit is the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio. We turn the back of an aircraft into a flying hospital and transport the injured to a higher level of care or to rehabilitation. Those planes fly at a much higher cabin altitude than commercial planes and that is hard on our bodies. Also, we carry hundreds of pounds of equipment onto those planes as none are permanently set up solely for medical purposes. It will be about six more years until I can retire from the Air Force. I plan on it at some point, but I love being a flight nurse and will do so as long as my health permits. I am currently a Major, but will put on the rank of my new promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in February.”

Q5: What part does faith play in your career?

“My faith is a huge part of who I am. Jesus is the source of my strength and my peace. Working in the fields, I have seen such pain and devastation in people’s lives. I flew many young men and women out of Afghanistan with horrendous injuries, and have cared for many trauma patients in the ER. It’s been very hard to see children and young people die. My faith is what helps me be able to go back to work the next day.”

Written by Barb Sieminski, Feature Writer | Photo by Bonnie Manning, Feature Photographer

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