Nurse practitioner balances dual roles as civilian and military flight nurse

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

Mother, daughter, wife, student, nurse, reservist—these are a few of the dozens of titles that U.S. Air Force Capt. Sarah Mobbs, 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, takes on daily.

Most of the time, Mobbs lives life in the civilian sector as a nurse at Southeast Georgia Health System near St. Marys, Georgia. She’s a mother to two daughters, Berkeley and Dani, and a wife to her husband, Wesley.

One weekend a month, however, she makes the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Georgia to MacDill AFB, Florida, to serve her nation as an aeromedical evacuation flight nurse with the 45th AES.

Her medical journey began with getting a degree in general studies and transferring the skills to a nursing school. Upon graduating, she quickly learned from more experienced nurses at the hospital.

“Most nurses start in the field with either their associate or bachelor’s degrees,” explained Mobbs. “Sometimes, you get to meet a ‘diploma nurse,’ meaning they graduated high school and went straight to nursing school.”

Due to the different career routes, 'diploma nurses’ bring a unique perspective to the workplace and oftentimes have more hands-on experience than most, according to Mobbs.

“I got the opportunity to be trained by some of those [diploma] nurses,” said Mobbs. “I think it was incredibly valuable to learn different techniques and perspectives from a nurse with less ‘book’ learning and all hands-on education.”

Following her education, she went to work as a trauma nurse in the SGHS emergency room. Here, her passion for treating patients and saving lives would ignite.

“I like the fast-paced environment,” shares Mobbs. “Your heart beats a little bit; you get sweaty palms and the ‘good’ kind of anxiety kicks in.”

As she and her family grew older, the workload started to shift. Instead of treating trauma patients, Mobbs started working alongside the hospital’s leadership, teaching and coaching new doctors. Recognizing the trend, she reflected on her mother’s experience in the military.

“My mom retired after a 20-year enlistment in the Navy,” shares Mobbs. “She sacrificed a lot to help make me one of the first bachelor’s and master’s graduates in my family. I thought [joining the military] would be a great way to pay it back to my mom and pay it forward to my kids.”

After looking into possible career paths she found flight nursing, a reservist path that would allow her to continue her professional development at the hospital while practicing her high-paced technical skills.

Soon after, she found her way to Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Despite years of college, medical school and trauma nursing, OTS posed a greater challenge than anything she’d faced before.

“My mom went to her boot camp 30 years ago and she did her best to prepare me for what to expect,” explained Mobbs. “I think she knew more than I did that it was going to be a lot harder than I took it for.”

For Mobbs, the challenges presented in OTS weren’t traditional. She had no problem completing the schoolwork, learning to be an officer “on paper,” but commissioning at the age of 30 posed unique situations.

“Pretty quickly I realized it wasn’t the education, tests or reading the books…that was easy,” explains Mobbs. “It was the constant yelling and intensity, stressing your body and being pushed to your limit every day. At 30 years old, it’s hard to maintain your composure for nine straight weeks under that much pressure.”

While facing her personal struggle, the world faced one of its own- COVID-19. Hundreds of miles away from her family, Mobbs could only work to keep herself safe and trusted her husband could do the same for her family.

“COVID-19 was non-discriminatory,” explains Mobbs. “It didn’t matter what age you were, the color of your skin, the religion you practiced, or your socioeconomic status. It really was devastating for the medical community.”

Despite the pandemic, Mobbs pushed on, leaning on her family for support during the venture.

“The biggest thing that got me through was my immediate family,” said Mobbs. “My husband, my children and my mother were encouraging me throughout the entire journey.”

Graduating from OTS served as a monumental achievement in Mobbs's life. Inspired by her training, Mobbs took on a new mindset.

“No matter how bad we mess up,” explains Mobbs. “We have to get up, put one foot in front of the other and try again. OTS taught me that I’ll make mistakes but at the end of the day I’m going to keep striving to do better.”

Now, Mobbs works as a pulmonary nurse practitioner in her civilian life and a 45th AES flight nurse in the military, attributing her career success to the support of her family.

“My immediate family constantly steps up,” shared Mobbs. “I don’t think anyone in the military agrees we can’t praise our families enough, it’s amazing how resilient a child can be, let alone a military child.”

Mobbs serves as an example for military families everywhere. Her devotion to family and service has brought her through challenges most never attempt to face.

Mobbs leaves anyone looking to pursue a similar path with this advice: “Be flexible. Our military is always evolving. Change is constantly happening and it’s good. Take what you’ve learned and apply it. Make the changes you want to see.”

For more information on OTS and how to commission in the U.S. Air Force, visit: