"Whatever it Takes"
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan, July 11, 1996 Minutes after the Air Force C-141 transport aircraft rolled to a stop on the tarmac at this strategic military base south of Tokyo, Air Force Capt. Brian Cramer pulled up in a blue pick-up truck and began supervising post-flight activities.
As flight nurses and technicians helped patients deplane, others supervised the off-loading of baggage or talked with customs officials checking passengers' and crew members' entry forms.
Tall and big as a major league slugger, Cramer was everywhere, helping with bags, answering questions, shouting into a cellular phone to find out where the crew bus was and answering questions from his boss and others back at the squadron.
In Japan only a month, Cramer already was becoming a familiar figure in the 374th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, pulling rotational duty as the on-call director of operations. With three or more evacuation missions a day and a coordination chain going all the way back to Pacific Air Forces headquarters in Hawaii and the Tanker Airlift Control Center in Illinois, off-duty and sleep were oft-missed luxuries.
But the Milwaukee native took the hectic pace and demands of his job in stride, keeping cool in his cotton flight suit and flattop haircut.
"My family won't get here until November, so working long hours isn't a problem for me," he said. Even after his family joins him, however, Cramer won't slack off. His love of baseball nurtured the attitude that "you don't let your teammates down." And his rise from airman to officer further instilled in him the necessity of giving all to mission accomplishment.
"I became an officer virtually overnight," Cramer said. After receiving a direct commission as a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, Cramer found himself suddenly in charge of two senior noncommissioned officers. The pair, he said, taught him to write performance appraisals correctly, but more importantly, imparted a lesson in work ethics he's never forgotten.
"'Be willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done,'" they told me," Cramer recalled. "If it means going without sleep for a day or two, then so be it.
"If somebody asks me for compensatory time off because they had to work a couple of hours past their normal quitting time, I'm like, 'What do you mean, comp time?' We've got patients whose lives may depend on our being here, whether it's for eight hours or 18 hours. I don't have much sympathy for anyone who doesn't understand and commit to that. I don't understand their mentality."
After the flight line cleared of buses, ambulances and other ground personnel -- and the C-141 stood silent on the nighttime flight line, the lights in Cramer's office burned brightly. A request for an urgent medical evacuation had come from a base in northern Japan.
For the burly captain, a day that began before dawn would now extend a few more hours. Hot coffee and a commitment to duty would see him through.