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Resilient Airman leads by example

62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Published: 11:00PM July 24th, 2014

Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson

Capt. Amanda Turcotte, 627th FSS sustainment flight commander, briefs her Airmen about their running route July 16 at JBLM. Turcotte fought, and prevailed, in reviews by two medical evaluation/separation boards.

Life is not a smooth road; it’s bumpy and full of obstacles. In the Air Force, how Airmen deal with the challenges they face depends on how resilient they are.

Captain Amanda Turcotte, 627th Force Support Squadron sustainment flight commander, had her resiliency put to the test twice in her career as she fought with the Air Force to stay in the military.

Turcotte joined ROTC at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., with hopes of becoming an astronaut. She was selected for navigator training during her junior year and by her senior year was preparing to graduate and start an aviation career in the Air Force.

In the middle of Turcotte’s senior year, doctors discovered blood clots had formed across both of her lungs. Due to this diagnosis, her future in the Air Force was in jeopardy.

“Within six months, I lost my flying slot, I was kicked out of ROTC and given an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force,” Turcotte said.

After undergoing treatment, her lungs healed and her doctors informed her, from a medical standpoint, there was no reason she could not continue to serve in the military.

Turcotte presented the medical evaluations to her ROTC leadership and convinced them to re-enroll her. She graduated on time with her class and commissioned into the Air Force. Pilot training was still denied so she tried to get stationed at a base with a large medical facility with the hopes of receiving a medical waiver allowing her to fly.

“Travis Air Force Base, Calif., was number one on my wish list because they had the largest hospital out of my choices,” she said.

She put together a medical waiver package for pilot training, but before it was able to be approved, she experienced another setback.

Doctors discovered another clot, this time in her knee. Turcotte was prescribed blood thinners, which she would need to take for the rest of her life. An informal review board deemed that prognosis incompatible with military service and recommended her separation from the Air Force.

Not only was her dream to be a pilot denied but her career was in jeopardy again. Once more, her resiliency to stay in the Air Force was put to the test.

Turcotte appealed the informal board’s decision and built a case to present to the formal medical board review at Lackland AFB, Texas.

While meeting with her attorney to prepare for the board, Turcotte realized the attorney did not have much confidence in her case.

“After I showed him my case, my attorney told me I had a zero percent chance of being retained in the Air Force,” Turcotte said.

Fortunately for her, she did not share her attorney’s outlook. She pressed forward and convinced the board she was fit for duty.

“Not only is Turcotte a captain in the Air Force, but she is driving the entire FSS sustainment flight,” said Lt. Col. Eugene Moore, FSS commander.

Since her arrival at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, two of her Airmen have won medals at the culinary competition at Washington D.C. and one of her Airmen won the John L. Hennessy Award.

“Once her Airmen hear her story, their excuses go out the window and they have started to excel because she leads by example in PT, work tasks and critical thinking,” Moore said. “She’s always pushing them to go above and beyond. She’s motivated me to be a better officer and a better person.”

Not only is she fit for duty, Turcotte is in the top five percent in physical fitness Air Force wide.

She has scored a 100 percent on every Air Force fitness test she has taken since ROTC. She held the female run record at Randolf Air Force Base, Texas, when she left and holds the current fastest time for female Airmen here, with a 9:23 mile and a half.

Turcotte has a rather simplistic explanation for what drove her to remain resilient through her career obstacles.

“I fought the system because I wanted to serve,” she said. “I still want to serve, feel that I should be able to serve and am physically able to serve. So why can’t I?”