USAF FLIGHT NURSE BADGE
Although the Flight Nurse badge is currently issued only by the United States Air Force and the United States Navy, it was first awarded by the U.S. Army during World War II, the result of the realization that the same transport aircraft that had carried troops and materiel to the front lines could be used to rapidly transport wounded soldiers to treatment facilities.
Anticipating the need for this type of service during the North African invasion codenamed "Torch" in November, 1942, the United States Air Force hurriedly created a training program at Bowman Field in Kentucky to bring flight surgeons, flight nurses, and medical technicians up to speed on the intricacies involved in delivering medical care during flight. The USAAF placed so much importance on these medical evacuation squadrons that they deployed them to North Africa on Christmas Day, nearly two months before their training was scheduled to be completed.
The need for flight nurses indeed became critical after the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, but the women at Bowman Field had not finished their training, which included instruction in crash procedures, survival skills in the event of an aircraft going down, lessons on the effects of altitude on different types of injuries and diseases. Nevertheless, the USAAF sent these nurses to North Africa on Christmas Day; it wasn’t until Feb. 18, 1943, that the U.S. Army Nurse Corps' first class of flight nurses formally graduated at Bowman Field. 2nd Lt. Geraldine Dishroon, the honor graduate, received the first wings presented to a flight nurse.
Today’s Air Force Flight Nurses have taken up the mantle of these groundbreaking women. Working in tandem with flight surgeons and medical technicians, they’re a large reason why so many troops have survived injuries suffered in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom that would have been mortal just a few years ago.
Flight Nurse candidates must have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited nursing school and have at least one year of hands-on experience in acute care nursing. After completion of Commissioned Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, Flight Nurse candidates spent a year taking the eight classes that comprise the Aerospace Medicine Flight Nurse and Aeromedical Evacuation Technician Course held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The Flight Nurse badge is awarded in three degrees: Basic, Senior, and Chief. The Basic badge itself requires completion of the Aerospace Medicine Course, three years of aviation service, and a year of paid operational flight duty, while the Senior level mandate is 350 logged flight hours as a flight nurse (or 36 paid months of operational flight duty).
The U.S. Navy version of the Flight Nurse badge is issued in a single degree.