MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Two MacDill Air Force Base Airmen, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Drake, an aerospace medical technician, and Staff Sgt. Jan Nirza, a public health technician, both assigned to the 6th Aerospace Medical Squadron, were selected for the 2018 Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program.
“We cried,” laughed Drake and Nirza.
The NECP is a highly competitive commissioning program created for active duty enlisted personnel pursuing a baccalaureate degree in nursing. At the completion of the program each graduate commissions as a Nurse Corps Officer.
“Getting accepted was one of those moments that felt so surreal,” said Drake. “I was on leave when I got the call from my leadership. I knew my chances of being selected were very slim but when I was told I made it, I felt overwhelmed and just ecstatic!”
“I still can’t believe it and I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” smiled Nirza. “We have been working on this program for years.”
An Airman must complete 59 semester hours of graded coursework from a regionally accredited college or university before applying to the NECP.
“The NECP is a two-part process,” instructed Drake. “First, you need to figure out which university you’re going to be applying to and you’ll want to apply to multiple colleges. You don’t want to depend on getting accepted into only one school.”
According to Drake and Nirza, this year’s application changed from prior years but the base education center and a Facebook group for NECP applicants guided them through strict deadlines, answered their questions and ultimately helped them reach their goal.
“The application itself was about a six-month process, not including the time it took to complete the prerequisite classes,” Drake continued. “You have to apply for school, apply for the nursing program and then begin working on the Air Force application that included a video package, which was new and very time consuming. Around five months after you start applying for schools, the entire NECP package is due to the Air Force and then you sort of just play the waiting game until you hear if you were accepted.”
Drake explained that the application process felt like one hurdle after the next and tested her dedication.
“There were times I honestly said to myself that this isn’t even worth it, I want to give up,” confided Drake. “But having the support of my supervisor, having someone check in on me throughout the process and having a team rooting for me to succeed made all of the difference.”
One of the unique things about NECP is that it is open to enlisted personnel from any career field.
“Don’t let your current career deter you from applying if it’s something you want to do,” smiled Drake. “My biggest piece of advice for anyone who is interested in applying for any type of program is to not give up. Setbacks are acceptable, learn from your mistakes, move past them and if you want it, just try.”
Drake will begin her nursing program in the fall at the University of South Florida, Tampa, while Nirza will be attending the University of West Florida, Pensacola.
Once the Airmen complete their entire nursing program, they will take the National Council Licensure Examination, meet with various boards, attend Commissioned Officer Training and participate in the 10-week Nurse Transition Program, before moving to their first assignment as Nurse Corps Officers.
“I get to witness the broad spectrum of the medical field in my current job and this encouraged me to push myself further into the field,” beamed Nirza. “I am the only Airman in my family and I’ll be the very first officer. For me, I have a lot of pride to be accepted into the NECP and having that bar on my shoulder will be the result of my family’s influence, my hard work and all of the people who supported me along the way.”