Edythe McGoff

My military story begins when I graduated from nursing school (Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA). I wanted to join the military. I had dinner with a USAF recruiter. Long story short, my mother talked me out of joining, knowing I would be deployed to Vietnam at that time. I had no problem with that, however, my mother did though since I was an only child.

I got married, had children and one day I received a postcard in the mail. Keep in mind; I was already in my 40’s and way too old to join the military. The card stated that there was a nursing shortage (again) and the West Virginia Air National Guard was accepting applications for nurses. Well, I applied and was accepted. I received a call one day and the Sgt. told me I would “come in” as a Major. Great, that really didn’t mean too much to me at the time since I had no military experience. I was in!!!!! That was what was important. A dream come true. I had also gone back to school and obtained my BSN and MSN.Edythe McGoff

I wanted to be an Aeromedical Evacuation Nurse. I attended Officer Training and Flight School. When I came back, our Squadron was deploying nurses for Desert Shield. I couldn’t go because I needed to get some experience and pass my check ride. 1991 comes and there was another deployment. They were sending 12 nurses. I was one of them. Finally!!!

I held positions: Flight Commander, Education and Training Advisor, taught Trauma Nurse Core Curriculum (TNCC), taught classes in Disaster and Mass Casualty, helped develop ensure optimum use of our unit resources.

Desert Shield/Desert Storm:

We were in Dover 11 days waiting for a flight out. We saw on TV, President Bush announce war was declared. Suddenly, an airplane became available and we were flown to Rihayd after some stops on the way. Days go by, I was finally deployed to Log Base Charlie, 5 miles south of Iraq and west in Saudi Arabia. Nothing there but sand (dirt). There were 40 of us medical people (12 nurses). Time in rank, I was not put in charge.

We were there 4 months and we had missions almost every day. Imagine, we had to build and create our living/work area. We filled sand bags all day every day for a week. I had my first experience with PTSD when a soldier, driver of a Humvee, arrived as the only survivor of a scud attack. 

Operation Joint Guardian (Skopje, Macedonia):

Before I share this part of my story, I am now a Lt. Col. I volunteered to be deployed to Macedonia/Kosovo. I was Commander of the 52nd EASTS/MASF and responsible for an AELT in Kosovo. I actually lived in Macedonia and flew via Black Hawk to Kosovo once a week to check in with my nurse there. During that time, I managed 30 medical personnel. I also was NATO’s Air Force expert at the Kosovo Forces planning meetings. I helped develop a draft Mass Casualty Plan for the Kosovo Airfield. Also, I had an opportunity to learn about Forward Transportable Hospitals. The package is “dropped” from a plane and erected/operational within 24 hours. Emergency Room, Operating room and ICU. Awesome concept!!

Operation Iraqi Freedom (Balad, Iraq):

I am now the Chief Nurse of the 332nd EAEF/AEOT. I managed 50 medical personnel (AE/CCAT). I helped plan 250 missions and we moved > 4,000 patients and some dogs. I was able to provide continuing education for the nurses since I had already been doing that in West Virginia. I had nurses from the hospital and our physicians lecture. I also participated as a patient advocate for the Sexual Assault Team for the base since there were a high number of assaults occurring.

WV CERFP Team Member (Support Homeland Security) – Respond to National Capital Area (2004-2009):

I was a medical team member and by rank/experience second in charge with a physician in charge. Our West Virginia Team was the second of 12 teams nationwide to be verified/certified. I helped organize and teach classes. I helped develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and develop a database to be used by the team. My last deployed mission with the team was for the Presidential Inauguration in 2009.

Why I joined: I always wanted an opportunity to share my skills and learn from others while “Being All I Could Be” (my motto) and be a patient advocate. I love the camaraderie, protocol, and opportunity to care for service people.

Service changed me by becoming more mature, patient, and giving of myself. Many times, I shed tears when commanding officers came onto the plane to lay a Purple Heart on some of our patients, knowing they may not live till they got home.

Here’s an example of how a military team comes together. We were notified that a patient (Army soldier) was coming in from Baghdad after being stabbed in his head. He was brought to the base hospital (Level I Trauma Center) via BlackHawk. He was awake all this time. He received trauma work-up and allowed to talk with his wife on the phone. He was fully conscious and aware of his surroundings. The Neurosurgeon called Bethesda to speak with a Neurosurgeon. It was decided to fly him home. So, I activated our team AE crew (nurses & med techs) and a CCATT team (1 Intensivist, 1 critical care nurse, 1 RT). The patient flew on a C-130 with another patient that just had surgery. It was decided not to go to Germany first as was the routine. They were flown home. He had surgery, recovered and went back to active duty. What a miracle. The public needs to know that the military few 2 patients in a C-130, keeping in mind how expensive it is to fly.

My advice to other nurses considering the military: DO IT. As an adjunct nursing professor, I have many times, over the years, mentored and written letters of recommendation. I have been doing Mental Health clinicals at a local VAMC. It has been so rewarding to share knowledge, and spend time with students and patients in an environment of respect and need.

I hesitated joining the VFW. A man’s world !! Well, now that I have retired from hospital nursing, I have more time and decided I have some talents to bring to the organization. I am a member of VFW Post 2123. They have made me feel very welcome.

One more opportunity: (After Retirement)

For a short time, I worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and helped establish their trauma program. I was the Performance Improvement nurse.

Edythe A. McGoff, MSN, RN, CEN, FAEN
Lt. Col. USAF NC (Retired)


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