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Inside the Gates: Flight surgeons take to the air to learn how to treat air crews

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:53 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A recent training flight for the 211th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard might have seemed like a flightseeing tour due to the spectacular views, but those on it say they’re along for the ride not just for fun, but for work.

Lt. Col. Beth Lafleur is a flight surgeon with the 176th Medical Group. Her job is to help keep flight crews operating.

“I want to give them that peace of mind,” Lafleur said before her latest flight. “I want them to know that we’re watching out for them, that we’re taking care of them.”

Lafleur is from Louisiana and says she has been with the guard since 2014, after eight years with the Air Force.

“Decided I didn’t want to leave, so I switched over to the guard,” Lafleur said. “I also wanted to deploy and I know that the guard deploys a lot. And I wanted to go practice medicine in austere places.”

Lafleur trains like other fliers and uses the flights to better understand what air crews do. What she learns helps treat those who need it, both physically and emotionally.

“The people who do these jobs, the operators, they do hard work,” Lafleur said. “They’re out there putting themselves in danger and seeing things that no person should see and experience.”

Lafleur flies with the National Guard about twice a week. She says it’s a highlight of the job and the care is not just for those in the air.

“We take care of everyone on base. That’s why flight docs are kind of the jack of all trades,” Lafleur said. “We are rated fliers, so we have to keep up the same currencies. I have to do four hours a month of flights.”

Lafleur says another part of the job she enjoys is taking caring of people, who take care of us.

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