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Selfless leadership leads to award

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U.S. Air Force Major Chris Dorion, 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse teaches U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harelimana Mhayamaguru 45 AES air evacuation technician, about the dry seal chest drainer on Oct. 3, 2020 at MacDill Air Force Base, FL. The Express chest drain integrates precision dry suction regulation, and a dry seal one-way valve technology for patient safety. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

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U.S. Air Force Major Chris Dorion, 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse teaches Senior Airman Harelimana Mhayamaguru, 45 AES air evacuation technician about the Propaq monitor and defibrillator on Oct. 3, 2020 at MacDill Air Force Base, FL. The Propaq MD monitor/defibrillator is an ultra-lightweight, airworthy deice that provides advanced monitoring capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

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U.S. Air Force Major Chris Dorion, 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse teaches Senior Airman Harelimana Mhayamaguru 45 AES air evacuation technician about the Propaq monitor and defibrillator on Oct. 3, 2020 at MacDill Air Force Base, FL. The Propaq MD monitor/defibrillator is an ultra-lightweight, airworthy deice that provides advanced monitoring capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE --

Maj. Christopher Dorion, a flight nurse with the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, earned the Air Force Reserve Command Aeromedical Evacuation Field Grade Officer of the Year award for his role during a five-month deployment to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan where he forward-deployed and led air evacuations and the Critical Care Air Transport Team in support of special operations missions. Additionally, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla, Dorion revamped flight operations creating 30 training scenarios for new members of the squadron.  

“I found out that I won at an aeromedical evacuation senior leadership conference,” Dorion said. “They put a slide up with the annual award winners and I saw my name. Immediately I felt humbled because there is no way I could’ve achieved this without my team at Bagram, the members of the 45th AES and mentorship along the way.”

Flight nurses have a number of responsibilities not found in most nursing settings. Aeromedical evacuations use cargo aircraft. Environments in which crews are sent can be noisy, hot on the ground, cold in the air. They operate at high altitudes, which can significantly reduce available oxygen. Privacy is difficult to provide and resources that are normally taken for granted like medical supplies, oxygen, electricity, and medications, are in a limited supply until the crew can reach the ground and get to the hospital. Additionally, they have to consider mission security, manage the patients' luggage, and assist passengers.

Air Force flight nurses complete specialized training at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to learn about the unique requirements and challenges of aeromedical evacuation. Dorian also uses his experience to connect with patients.

“With in-flight patient care, there are a multitude of different variables to consider while working but one thing that I think you have to remember is that the patient needs to be comforted,” Dorion said. “The patient often feels a sense of failure for not finishing the mission but I always try to convey that we need them healthy to fight later down the line.”

In his civilian job, Dorion serves as an ER nurse at Tampa General Hospital. But for the past few months, he’s taken on the role of filling in as the chief nurse for the 45th AES.

Lt. Col Victoria Matthews, 45th AES director of operations, expressed her gratitude for Dorian’s selfless attitude and leadership.

“While we were deployed to Bagram, you could really see how Chris stayed actively engaged with the tasks brought his way,” said Matthews. “His crew had many missions that ran late, missions they did with special operations and he was always trying to keep his crew motivated because there were long days, but his selfless leadership carried them.”

Dorian stated that part of the aeromedical evacuation culture is being mindful of the potential for stress and exhaustion. His squadron members have worked together to develop a strong support system in which the crews on standby will help with loading and offloading of the hundreds of pounds of gear onto an aircraft before and after a mission regardless of time or length of the mission.

“I’ve learned along this journey to be ready and willing to help the next guy, don’t be the guy that keeps to himself and not share your nuggets of wisdom,” said Dorion. “Awards are great but a team that helps you get there is even better.”