Airman to commission through IPAP

  • Published
  • By Airman Daniel Brosam
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
For some children, it is a dream to become a doctor, lawyer or police officer when they grow up. For one Malmstrom Airman, his dream has come true.

Staff Sgt. Alexander Ortiz, 341st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, has been selected to commission and become a physician assistant through the Interservice Physician Assistant Program.

Ortiz grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was raised by his mother who was a school teacher and his father, a medical doctor. He is the youngest of three boys, one of his older brothers being a nurse.

Ortiz completed high school and went on to college where he spent less than a year taking classes and earning his emergency medical technician license. He said college wasn't what he wanted to do at the time, so he joined the Air Force.

When he enlisted, Ortiz was licensed as an EMT. When he was choosing jobs during basic military training, there was a spot for a medical technician.

He went onto his first duty station at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where he worked in flight medicine and performed preventative health assessments during his time there.

Ortiz said though there was interaction with patients, his job was more of an administrative position and he wanted to be more involved with his patients.

"I really wanted to practice in medicine," Ortiz said. "I don't want to be a support person. I want to be at the front line and make the decisions, diagnose and treat."

After working at Joint Base Charleston for two years, Ortiz decided to apply for a special duty in which he conducted aeromedical evacuations. He spent 3.5 years at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as part of an operations unit covering U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.

He said his job consisted of flying in aircraft all over Europe and Africa and returning wounded warriors back to the U.S.

During his time at Ramstein, Ortiz went from taking care of real-world casualties to becoming an instructor and later an evaluator toward the end of his tour. This led to less interaction with real patients and to conducting more training and evaluation missions.

Ortiz wanted something more.

"I decided to apply to the IPAP two years ago and focus on the program," Ortiz said. "I could have stayed in Germany, but I wanted to come back to the states and be able to interact with patients."

Ortiz has been at Malmstrom for three months. As a medical technician, he checks in patients for the provider, conducts prescreenings and checks patients' vitals before turning them over to a nurse for further evaluation. He also manages a hazardous materials program and is his unit's supply custodian.

He said because he has completed his upgrade training, he can sometimes be more hands-on.

"I can assist providers on different procedures," Ortiz said. "Depending on who I am working with, I get to do a fair amount of things under their supervision."

Ortiz arrived at Malmstrom in the midst of awaiting the IPAP results.

"I didn't want to be over confident just because I had good grades," Ortiz said. "I didn't have an awesome feeling especially because I was in the middle of a (permanent change of station) and I was thinking about the time on station requirement and eligibility during a PCS."

Ortiz found out the results of his application during a base all call held by the wing commander. At the end, his unit commander called him to the front of the room.

"As soon as she did that, I knew I got it," Ortiz said. "What else could it have been? At that point I was the new guy and no one knew me."

The news had broke - Ortiz had been accepted into the IPAP program.

"I'm really humbled I'm able to do this," Ortiz said. "I came in (to the Air Force) as an airman basic with little college and had just turned 20 years old. I always thought 'I want to make it there some day.'"

"It's just a big accomplishment," he continued. "Here I am with six years time in service and I'm picked up for a commissioning program before my 10-year mark. I always wanted to be an officer and I think it's cool that I did this in the amount of time I've been enlisted."

Ortiz said he will continue to work hard and take more classes until he leaves to Fort Sam-Houston, Texas, in April 2017 for the 1.5 year-long program.