Richard Mitchell, RRT-NPS
Respiratory Care Practitioner, Respiratory Care/CHaD Transport Team
United States Air Force
In the early 1950s, my father was an Air Force intelligence officer at Walker Air Force Base, where I was born. The Cold War was just starting to heat up. Patriotism was more than just respect and honoring our country. There was a strong sentiment that our freedom and survival were at risk. I grew up with this sense of patriotism. But, the enlightenment of the 60s made us question our posture and actions. I had a great deal of ambivalence regarding Vietnam. I enlisted in the Air Force during the withdrawal of ground forces.
I think my work in Respiratory Care, especially transport and disaster response has been greatly influenced by my service. Regarding procedures and processes; discipline and safety; attention to details and situational awareness; military service is the foundation for conditioning and training. While awaiting discharge, I was placed in a labor pool—no sitting around—and assigned as an "augmentee" at the base hospital. We were there to help staff: for filing records, moving beds, delivering supplies, etc. One day, a corpsman showed up in our little office and asked for a Jet Engine mechanic, (propulsion spec). The NCO said he didn't have one on his roster and told the corpsman, he did have a Navigation/Avionics guy. Me. I was a bit curious. The corpsman asked if I could read schematics, technical blueprints. I said yes and he said, "He'll do".
The corpsman was an Inhalation Therapist, (what we RTs were called then) and needed help assembling two Bird respirators. We completed this task successfully. I thought that the application of technology in patient care was something I would like. When I got out of the Air Force, I pursued Respiratory Care and it has been a rewarding and satisfying career for over 40 years.
Photo caption: 1972, Biloxi Air Force Base, MS, holding my newborn son, Jess.