UT Student Takes Leave to Serve the Country

Published: Nov 19, 2008
At the beginning of the Fall 2008 semester, University of Tampa student Christine Davis thought she would be spending the following weeks studying for an anatomy class she was taking.

Her plans changed when she was summoned to Texas to assist with evacuation efforts for Hurricane Gustav.

As an active duty medical technician in the U.S. Air Force, a life interrupted is something that Davis is used to. Having worked for the Air Force for nearly nine years, her various duties have taken her throughout the U.S. and to places as far away as the Middle East.

“I have to have my bags packed ahead of time,” Davis said. “They only give you, at most, 24 hours notice before you get deployed.”

Less than 12 hours after the initial call, Davis was on a military plane leaving MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, headed to Texas.

Due to the erratic nature of her deployments, she was granted a temporary leave of absence from UT. She said she plans to continue her pursuit of a degree in nursing in the summer of 2009.

On deployment to the Gulf Coast, Davis was part of a 13-person team that operated a Medical Aerospace Staging Facility (MASF) – a small-scale hospital that can be quickly set up in any location. The MASF is usually assembled in an airplane hangar or under the cover of large tents, where patients are received. The team gathers and cares for patients from local hospitals before loading them onto military planes to be taken elsewhere.

After the storm passed, she returned to MacDill briefly before being called back to the Gulf Coast to prepare for Hurricane Ike. The team worked nonstop to evacuate patients in a town that was completely shut down in anticipation of the storm.

“For 48 hours we were working,” she said. “The Salvation Army was there to give us food. When I could I would pull up a cot to grab a 20 minute nap.”

Davis’ first foreign deployment was to the Middle Eastern country of Oman in 2002 as part of the initial U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. As part of a command and control post, Davis helped coordinate “night drops” of humanitarian supplies – including food and blankets – to the people in Afghanistan.

Two years later, she was again deployed, this time to Afghanistan itself, where she worked in a missile control post helping to monitor incoming attacks from enemy forces. She also spent time in South Korea in support of the troop presence there.

When she is not on deployment, Davis works full-time as an EMT at MacDill’s Brandon, Florida Community Clinic. Taking classes at UT in the evenings, she hopes to complete enough prerequisite classes to qualify to become a nurse for the Air Force. At that point, she will be able to pursue her degree full-time while also participating in UT’s ROTC program, she said.

Davis said she chose to pursue a nursing degree at UT after the Air Force stationed her at MacDill in January 2007.

“I loved everything about it,” Davis said. “The classes are small, you get more personalized attention and the campus is beautiful.”