All-female Medical Evacuation Crew Makes History
By Army Sgt. Neil Gussman
Special to American Forces Press Service
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2009 Four soldiers serving here with the New Hampshire National Guard earned a special distinction last week when they became their company’s first all-female medical evacuation crew.
From left, Sgt. Debra Lukan, Capt. Trish Barker, Staff Sgt. Misty Seward and Chief Warrant Officer Andrea Galatian, of the Army’s 3-238th Medevac, C company, became the company's first all-female crew just before Thanksgiving. They are serving in Iraq as part of Task Force Keystone. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Neil Gussman
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In the three days before Thanksgiving, Capt. Trish Barker, Chief Warrant Officer Andrea Galatian, Staff Sgt. Misty Seward and Sgt. Debra Lukan, of the Army’s 3-238th Medevac, C Company, comprised one of the on-alert crews for Task Force Keystone. Officials aren’t sure how rare the all-female medevac crew is, but it is a rarity the company is proud of.
"There must have been another all-female medevac crew somewhere, but I haven't seen one," said Galatian, the crew’s pilot.
The odds are slim for such a crew to come up on rotation, said Army Maj. David Mattimore, commander of C Company, 3-238th Medevac, from Hampton, N.H.
"It would not have been possible until one of our avionics sergeants became a crew chief," he said.
That crew chief also is the newest name on the flight roster: Lukan, 43, of Keene, N.H., enlisted following 9/11. "I just barely made the age cutoff," she said of her age.
Lukan trained as an avionics mechanic and just recently switched from the shop to flight crew. She deployed to Camp Speicher and Tikrit from 2005 to 2006 and served in the avionics field. She’s happy to be on the flight rotation this time, she said.
"My family doesn't know I'm flying," she said. "They worry a lot, but I suppose I'll have to tell them eventually."
In the civilian world, Lukan is a federal technician in avionics for the New Hampshire National Guard.
Seward, 30, of Owosso, Mich., agreed with Galation on the uniqueness of the crew. "Same for me," she said. "Never flew with an all-girl crew."
In fact, with a total of nine deployments among them and between eight and 12 years of service apiece, this still is a first-time experience for the entire crew, Barker, the operations officer, said.
Seward enlisted in 1998 and has served as a medic for 11 years. She has four years as a flight medic and seven on the ground. She deployed to Kuwait from 2001 to 2002 and to Baghdad from 2006 to 2007, both tours as a ground medic.
When she returns from her current tour, Seward will resume her job as a security officer at a level-one trauma clinic in Lansing, Mich., part of Sparrow Health Systems.
Galatian enlisted in 1997 and served five years as an administrative clerk before going to flight school in 2002. She has served seven years as a pilot, including a deployment to Bosnia in 2005.
As a civilian, Galatian is the business analyst for the real estate division of the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Barker, 30, enlisted in 1999 as an aircraft fueler. She went to Officer Candidate School in 2003 and Flight School in 2004. A native of Menominee, Mich., she was deployed to Bosnia in 2005 as a medevac section leader.
When she returns from this deployment, she will resume her job as the state occupational health specialist for the Michigan Army National Guard.
"It may be months before this crew comes up in the rotation again," Mattimore said. "We only have nine female flight crew members and everyone rotates to our remote bases, so the odds of them being back together again are low."
Still, the crew is happy to have had the experience. "I'm glad we got a chance to be first," Barker said, "even if it is just first for us."
(Army Sgt. Neil Gussman serves with the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, Multinational Division South Iraq, public affairs.)