By Story by Sgt. Sydney Mariette
34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade
“I think my favorite thing about flying, if you take away that I’m a medic, it’s the freedom of it,” said Sgt. Kayla Sampson, assigned to Charlie Company, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion. “But if you put in the fact that I’m also a medic, it’s the fact that I’m not just someone that’s going to get you from the ground onto a helicopter, I’m the medic that’s actually going to travel with you. Without MEDEVAC assets there would be a lot of Soldiers that wouldn’t make it out of country because the ground transport is so long. I love what I do.”
At the age of 21 years old, Sgt. Kayla Sampson is the youngest flight medic assigned with the Indiana National Guard MEDEVAC unit currently deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield. She is also the newest flight medic, having just boarded for the position in July of 2019. As a qualified combat medic she possesses the foundational medical knowledge required for the position but still needs to attend flight medic school to be fully qualified. Which was the intention, to train her now and then take her on the next deployment. However, through some last minute personnel shortages, she was selected to mobilize for the 2019-2020 deployment.
“They called me October 1st and said “we need another medic to deploy are you willing? We leave in 20 days,”” said Sampson. “I was pretty excited because I was wanting the experience, I wanted to deploy, and wanted to go, I wanted to do and see. But it was really like the initial shock of “holy cow, I have to figure out my life in 20 days” kind of thing. “
Not only did Sampson have to finalize her personal affairs, but she also had to begin absorbing all the on-the-job training her fellow flight medics were teaching her during the two months of mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
“It was like drinking water out of a fire hose,” said Sampson. “I was learning aircraft and learning medicine and I’d never even been in a helicopter. But I was very excited.”
To accommodate her official certification level, Sampson flies double medic. This means that her fellow crew member, responsible for the crew chief duties, is also a flight medic. Therefore, she always has qualified oversight while attending to patients. Her platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Stringer, says it is easy to forget she is not fully qualified as a flight paramedic because she is so proficient in her work.
“There is a large expansion of emergency medicine knowledge from combat medic to critical care paramedic,” explained Stringer. “[Sampson’s] diligence and willingness to learn fully supplemented her abilities to think through complex problems and perform as a self-starter. We do keep a paramedic on-board with her during all of her flights. In no way do we have reservations about her skills, but should an emergency take place in flight beyond what we've been able to teach her, it would be unfair to both her and the patient to not have someone on board who could provide that advanced experience and care. However, every time Sgt. Sampson boards that aircraft, all of our paramedics place her in the lead medic seat and she performs completely independently without any help from the on-board paramedic.”
After deployment, Sampson will officially complete her training by attending paramedic school, critical care course, and air crew member training, which will end up being another 9 months of training away from home. The extended time away from home in Indiana does not bother her though.
“Originally [I joined] for school, then I fell in love with serving and doing the whole Army thing,” said Sampson. “I love what I do, I’m super excited to see where it takes me and what else I get do to.”
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