Airman follows in mothers footsteps, becomes flight nurse

Capt. Slugocki inserts an IV into a simulated patient during a training mission at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Capt. Slugocki inserts an IV into a simulated patient during a training mission at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Capt. Katherine Slugocki plays nurse using her mom’s stethoscope while playing with her baby brother. (Courtesy Photo)

Capt. Katherine Slugocki plays nurse using her mom’s stethoscope while playing with her baby brother. (Courtesy Photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

As a child, Capt. Katie Slugocki, 321st Air Mobility Operations Squadron flight nurse, would tag along with her mother, who has now been a nurse for more than 30 years, while she worked and saw the impact her mother had on her patients’ lives.

 

Since she was just a young girl using her mother’s stethoscope on her baby brother, Slugocki has had a passion for taking care of others thanks to her mother’s influence and this passion has come into full fruition as she now helps members in the Armed Forces more than 30,000 feet in the air.

 

 “Besides my grandparents serving during World War II, no one else in my immediate family has ever served in the military, but I’ve always had such admiration for those who have,” she said. “About the same time I decided on a career in nursing (high school), I also decided that I wanted to join the military to serve our troops.”

 

She explained that during her search for colleges, she only had two requirements: a nursing program and an ROTC program so she could commission into the Air Force.

 

“After doing some research on my own, I discovered flight nursing and knew that taking care of wounded troops while getting them back home lined up with my desire for joining the service,” Slugocki said. “I loved the idea of having a significant impact on the lives of our wounded warriors.” 

 

Once she joined the Air Force and became a flight nurse, she realized it was much tougher than she imagined, but she was up for the task.

 

“Flight nursing in the Air Force is a completely different world,” she said. “Not only do you have to take everything you’ve learned working in the hospital and apply it to working inside an aircraft, but you have to have in-depth understanding of each aircraft you fly in and how the flight can effect each patient based off of their individual injuries. When you’re 35,000 feet in the air, you have to rely on solid nursing judgment, critical thinking, and your medical crew to make sometimes very serious decisions for the patients in your care.”

 

They’re never alone during a mission though; a lot of parts come into play with aeromedical evacuation. The Air Force has a team of doctors, nurses and medical technicians on call and available at all times by phone to assist AE crews while they’re en-route with patients.

 

Since joining the career field, she has deployed to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, where she worked at the contingency aeromedical staging facility. During her six months, she helped prep wounded soldiers at the hospital and transported them to the aircraft for their flights back to Germany. 

 

After her deployment, she was assigned to Kadena Air Base in Japan, where there was an active mission transporting a wide range of patients from anywhere in the Pacific back to the United States. She also spent four months at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, flying into Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to pick up patients to transport them back to Germany. 

 

“Serving as a nurse in the Air Force has been such an exciting and fulfilling experience, and I can't imagine doing anything else,” Slugocki said.  “I've been handed a tremendous responsibility caring for our wounded troops.  In some cases, the men and women that we transport and take care of have put their lives on the line for us and having the opportunity to give back to them has been extremely rewarding.”

 

She is currently a member of the 321st AMOS, where she stands ready 24/7/365 on a 12-hour notice to be part of a rapidly deployable team of command and control experts that plan and execute expeditionary air mobility operations.

 

“Over the last seven years I’ve spent working as a nurse in the Air Force, I’ve seen each step of the impressive transport process for our injured troops,” she said. “The number of people and teams involved, and the amount of care that goes into each step has ensured that we are providing excellent care from the point of injury throughout the entire evacuation process.”