Tampa General Hospital just graduated its biggest class to date of United States Air Force nurses. They're specially trained for whatever the world may throw at them and they've earned that world-class skill set right here in Tampa Bay.
It was an emotional ceremony for the graduates. TGH is the only hospital in Florida that offers this kind of intense schooling for Air Force nurses, one of just three hospitals in the U.S. that offer this kind of service.
The nurses endured nine weeks of brain-bending courses and hands-on training, but now they're ready to take on whatever calamities await them out in the real world.
"Off we go! Into the wild, blue yonder!," they all sang together. This was the last time most of these nurses would sing the Air Force song together.
They're off to new adventures now, at Air Force hospitals all over the country.
"I'm going to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH," said Second Lieutenant & Clinical Nurse, Karl Koopmeiners.
Now, they've graduated from the Air Force Nurse Transition Program at TGH. This is their biggest class yet, 24 men and women who survived a nine-week intensive course, saw more than 1200 patients and completed more than 6,000 nursing competency skills, no easy feat.
"It feels great!," said Koopmeiners. "We were working on the floors three or four days a week, then we had our Air Force stuff in addition to that, so they kept us busy, but it was a great experience."
They gave a rousing standing ovation for their mentors at TGH, then, one-by-one, they got their diplomas, along with a hearty salute.
Lieutenant Dawn Morales got a sweet graduation note from her son Deigo before she got her diploma. It had a heart and two words written on it, 'Go Mom!', and she agrees!
"I'm ready, ready to go!," said Morales enthusiastically.
TGH is proud of their long relationship with MacDill Air Force Base. TGH CEO Ron Hytoff received the Commander's Public Service Award.
"I only wish them the best of luck, and happy that we were able to contribute to their success," said Hytoff fondly.
"To us, there is no greater honor, than assisting in the future training of Air Force nurses, who will care for those serving in harm's way," said Lt. Colonel Alicia Gill Rossiter. "Within 12 hours, we can set-up a fully-functioning hospital anywhere in the world. We save lives every day, often in remote areas of the world, with minimal resources, under the most extreme conditions."
In Vietnam, from battlefield to a U.S. hospital, it could take up to 21 days. Now, it's less than 72 hours.
In a video, the nurses looked back at good times. There was even a rap about the Nurses Transition Program, from Sarah Gilbert and Dionna Davis.
"It's Double D, at NTP and I'm chillin' with my girl, Sarah G., at seminar, learning delegation, doin' what we can to protect our nation, what?"
They won't be deployed right away. Most of them were already packed and hopped in their cars, shortly after the ceremony, on their way to Air Force bases all over the country, for at least a year. And from there, they'll go wherever in the world our forces need their help.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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