183rd Fighter Wing medical personnel named top in the nation

  • Published
  • By Col. Joseph Maslar
  • Commander, 183rd Medical Group
It is no secret that this Wing is filled with incredible, dedicated and skilled individuals that consistently put "Service Before Self" in their commitment to this country and its Armed Services. People do not give up one weekend a month, whether a traditional or full-time Guardsman, for the pay or because they do not have anything better to do. It is that kind of dedication to a greater cause that makes our military the best in the world. It also makes it a true privilege to work with such people as the Medical Group Commander. Though I may be biased, I think our Medical Group has some of the best Guardsmen in the United States. But you do not have to take my word for it, as evidenced by the recent recognition of several members of the 183rd Medical Group as being the best in the Air National Guard (ANG). These selections are made by the National Guard Bureau from among all the Medical Corps members in the Air National Guard and are based on performance and nominations from the each Air National Guard base. Of these nationally recognized award winners, I have the distinct pleasure of having these members in our Medical Group:

Master Sgt. Natalie Durbin, Top Medical Senior NCO, 2011
Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Long, Top Bioenvironmental Engineering Senior NCO, 2012
1st Lt. Ashley Whitley, Top Company Grade Nurse, 2012
Maj. Tom DeTorres, Top Biomedical Clinician - Field Grade, 2012
Lt. Col. Melanie Proffitt, Outstanding Excellence in Nursing Leadership, 2012
Those of us that work with these outstanding individuals are certainly not surprised by their national recognition.

Master Sgt. Natalie Durbin, ever meticulous and beyond energetic, has always been the go-to Senior NCO for Nursing Services in our Medical Group. She flawlessly juggles the training schedules and creates innovative and efficient programs that do not miss a beat even in the face of recent one-third manpower reduction of her team. She has saved  thousands of Medical Group dollars by stream-lining training programs and spear-heading training agreements with local hospitals to optimize real-world experience for her team. She is well-recognized for the flawless performance of her programs on all recent Air Force inspections, and she always puts in the overtime to make sure her troops are well taken care of, mentored and represented. She is also a dedicated parent involved with chaperoning school field trips, and in her spare time she runs half-marathons. It is no surprise that she would be picked to represent the Medical Senior NCO's.

In a similar vein, Senior Master Sgt. Long is a recognized and nationally sought-out expert in his field, volunteering for training exercises as a planner, instructor and evaluator for Bioenvironmental Engineering concerns. At home, he is an expert in his career field and a recognized enlisted leader for the Medical Group and the Wing. He has been, and continues to be, a pivotal participant in the Illinois National Guard's emergency response force, and was selected as the Joint Task Force Medical Element NCOIC in support of last year's NATO Summit in Chicago. On a local response level, he manages the base's response equipment, and was responsible for the 183rd being the first wing in the ANG to be fully trained for a hazardous material decontamination response. Due to his special skills, he was hand-picked to assist our partner country, Poland, in disaster response preparation for the EuroCup 2012. He does all this in addition to managing the base's Bioenvironmental Engineering program, which is responsible for monitoring all areas for hazardous materials and health concerns. You can rely on Senior Master Sgt. Long to keep you safe at work.

1st Lt Ashley Whitley is another one of those people who seems to have more hours in the day than the rest of us because of all the things she gets accomplished. There is
not a program in nursing services that she has not mastered and perfected--as well as some that are not specifically assigned to nursing (like the Self Aid Buddy Care Program--and we all know how much fun that program is!). No matter what the  program, though, she does not rest until it is perfected. She is personally responsible for decreasing physical exam wait times by 20%, and has saved thousands of Medical Group dollars through inventory right-sizing and innovative resource acquisition. She applies her keen clinical skill to ensure medical exercises are realistic and properly conducted, and without fail volunteers as part of the State's emergency response team. Her outstanding and broadbased medical skills and dynamic leadership style, as well as her dedication to service made her a shoe-in for national recognition.

It would be easy to dislike Maj. Tom DeTorres if he were not such a great guy. He always gets his required assignments done first and usually before they are actually required. That assertiveness and perfectionism applies to everything he does. Since he joined our Medical Group after being an active duty member of the USAF band (he's played for European Royalty), he has always set the standard as a subject matter expert and as someone always willing to help out by picking up more duties. In addition to seeing over 30 patients a day during drill weekends, he is responsible for infection control, making sure the medical providers are correctly credentialed, and never misses a State emergency response exercise or training session. He was even the first Physician Assistant in the ANG to get certified as a Flight Medicine provider--again, a national leader. He tirelessly assists other Medical Group members with Physical Fitness issues, is a skilled mentor and teacher for junior officers, and never lets his keen intellectual skills rest as he always works process improvement in the Medical Group. He even volunteered to get vaccinated for smallpox so that he would be able to assist with vaccinating deploying wing members. Seriously, who is going to top
this guy for national recognition?

Our fifth award winner is directly responsible for influencing at least two of our other winners, as well as many others in our Medical Group, since she is the current Chief Nurse, Lt. Col. Melanie Proffitt. Like the others, the problem with her nomination was not what to put on it, but which of the extensive contributions and areas of excellence to leave out so that it would fit on the nomination form. Due to her tireless and meticulous attention to detail, nursing services without exception, always receives outstanding and flawless reviews from Air Force inspectors. She epitomizes the philosophy of taking care of her troops, and makes sure they are 100% trained, mentored for education, and promoted in the minimum appropriate time. She is a tireless volunteer, and due to her clinical and organizational expertise she was hand-picked for full-time work with the Illinois emergency response force, and is sought out by other states for her advice on this endeavor. She was instrumental in the successful deployment of this emergency response force in support of last year's NATO summit, and combined in-place medical training that would have cost thousands of dollars otherwise. Lt. Col. Proffitt is that consummate leader that every commander dreams about having in his or her  organization, and she will make a great commander herself someday.

Undoubtedly one of the most rewarding aspects of being a commander is ensuring the recognition of the incredible work that is done on a daily basis by the outstanding members of the Medical Group. I am continually in awe of the talented, dedicated and truly great people that we have the pleasure of working with in the Guard, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to share a few notes about these individuals in our Medical Group. You will not find better ones in the entire United States. And now it is official.