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Robins NCO earns AFA award for top performance in physical medicine

Tech. Sgt. Crystal Gomez

Tech. Sgt. Crystal Gomez

Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Tech. Sgt. Crystal Gomez has helped injured Airmen get back in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan to fight terrorists and worked closely with her medical counterparts to set up a satellite physical medicine clinic so Airmen wouldn't have to travel far for treatment.

Now, the Physical Medicine craftsman in the 78th Medical Group's Physical Medicine Flight is among seven Airmen in the Air Force's medical career field being recognized for their steadfast allegiance to the medical mission.

The group will be presented with the 2007 Air Force Association Team of the Year Award at the Pentagon on April 3.

Among her duties as an expeditionary medic, Sergeant Gomez took charge of the first Physical Medicine Clinic assigned to an army hospital, making it fully operational in 48 hours, and organized local national patient movement prosthetic fabrication with the International Red Cross Committee.

Whether she's stateside or in the Area of Responsibility, Sergeant Gomez said she takes her mission to heart.

The 34-year-old Greensboro, N.C. native who has been at Robins for a year said the award is a first for her.

"I never thought it would ever go this far," she said. "I didn't even know that they (her leadership) were putting in a package until they came back and my commander told me I was one of the top 12. That's when I first found out about it. I didn't think it would go any further than that."

But, it did. The mother of two was grouped with a list of enlisted Airmen and officers who proved their worth in the medical field.

While the news took Sergeant Gomez by surprise, it was a given for people in her chain of command.

Lt. Col. Eugene Montano, Physical Medicine Flight commander in the 78th Medical Group's Medical Operations Squadron, took notice of Sergeant Gomez's potential early on.

"We had the opportunity to initially work together at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., in the mid '90s, and our careers crossed again here at Robins Air Force Base," he said. "I remember her as a new physical therapy technician. Very energetic, willing to learn. She worked exceptionally well with patients as she does now. She's a very hard worker, very self-directed, and an outstanding physical medicine technician."

Colonel Montano said Sergeant Gomez has grown in her profession.

"When I first knew Sergeant Gomez, she was a very quiet individual," he said. "But even then, she displayed a lot of leadership qualities. She was self-directed. She worked very hard. She was very willing to learn how to provide the best patient care possible. Now that I've seen her over the past year, I can see growth in terms of being more assertive. She is truly a leader. She wants to provide her patients with the best information possible on how to recover from their injuries, their surgical procedures, and she wants them to maximize their recovery in the best way possible."

Master Sgt. Tracy Tanner, NCO in charge of the Physical Medicine Flight within the 78th MDG's Medical Operations Squadron, is equally proud of the noncommissioned officer.

"What can you say, but outstanding?" she said. "It's good to see people like her win an award like this. Somebody who puts through 100 percent, it's so good to see somebody being recognized for that. In even her year here, she's done so much for us."

Each year, the AFA selects an enlisted career field for recognition. The selected Airmen were chosen for displaying their superior technical expertise, attracting the praise of their supervisors and providing leadership and inspiration to their co-workers.

Airmen who are nominated need only be assigned to the same career field and may not be members of a team in the traditional sense of the word.