From Vietnam to March: 37 years of selfless service

Colonel Janice McKibban holding a photograph of herself as a captain, taken in 1976. (U.S. Air Force photographic by Staff Sgt. Amy Abbott)

Colonel Janice McKibban holding a photograph of herself as a captain, taken in 1976. (U.S. Air Force photographic by Staff Sgt. Amy Abbott)

Colonel Janice McKibban as a lieutenant in Vietnam.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

Colonel Janice McKibban as a lieutenant in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- She has a career that spans nearly 37 years, starting as a young nurse in her early twenties serving with the Twelfth Air Force Hospital at Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, in 1971 and 1972.  And today, when you talk candidly to her, she will emphatically tell you she loves every bit of what she does. 

So, the standing ovation from the audience during her recent change of command was not out of place, but resounded as a testimony of respect and admiration for a woman who has dedicated much of her life to her country's service. 

On March 18, Col. Janice McKibban relinquished her command of the 452nd Medical Group after an exceptional seven and a half years, yet she has no intention to quit doing what she does best ... care for people. 

"This is her life, this is what she loves to do," said her husband, Ken, an Air Force retiree. "She loves to be a caregiver. She has worked in almost every facet of the medical profession as a civilian and as a member of the military." 

Ken praises her for the work she has done for many years and talks about their meeting after her return from Vietnam. 

He asked her why a girl from Waterbury, Connecticut, joins the Air Force in the middle of a war.  Her reply was simple and honest. She felt an American soldier who was seriously injured or dying would probably want to be taken care of by an American girl.
Apparently, that philosophy stuck and she has lived by it since. 

Col. McKibban lost her civilian job shortly after the war with Iraq began. Since then she
has been spending her time at March not as a full-time Air Reserve Technician, but doing Military Personnel Appropriation (MPA) days, continuing a career she is more than
passionate about. 

"Col. McKibban, as a group commander and as a certified medical service provider, has
been spending a large portion of her time providing medical services during the week, which enhances the wing's ability to meet our mission. You can't do it all on a weekend,
and I appreciate what she has been doing," said the 452nd Air Mobility Wing Commander, Brig. Gen. James Melin. 

At the recent change of command, McKibban switched places with Col. Raymond Butler, allowing her to take his former spot as the 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron Commander. 

"Giving her the opportunity to be the squadron commander puts her in the squadron on a full time basis so she can spend all of her time doing what she loves to do," said General Melin. 

Though she has stepped down from her position as group commander, she has not stepped away from the military and, as long as her services are needed, she plans to stay for at least a couple more years. 

"Col McKibban's move back to squadron level command after her unprecedented term of almost eight years as group commander speaks volumes about her dedication to serving the men and women of the 452nd AMW," said Col. Butler. "As a credentialed
medical provider, Col McKibban is in a much better position to offer direct care to members of our wing by returning to the clinic. Her decision to exchange group level command for squadron level command is typical of this warrior who began her
career as a combat nurse in Vietnam." 

And, like her answer to why she joined the Air Force in the middle of a war, her reason for staying is once again simple and honest. 

"I work out here to take care of the folks ... when they are in need of help" said Col. McKibban. "I love it. I love all the members of the wing. They are just a great group of people." 

A woman with nearly 37 years of service to the United States and to a profession that she loves -- Col. Janice McKibban.