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386th EMDG Airman accepted for Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program

Staff Sgt. Laura Ibanez, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group public health technician, was one of 40 Airmen selected this year for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program. NECP offers Airmen the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree in nursing at a college or university with an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment or a college or university with a "cross-town agreement." Applicants who are accepted are required to attend school year-round in a resident-based program for up to 24 consecutive calendar months, where they are required to complete classes, in-residence training, and ROTC requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

Staff Sgt. Laura Ibanez, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group public health technician, was one of 40 Airmen selected this year for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program. NECP offers Airmen the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree in nursing at a college or university with an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment or a college or university with a "cross-town agreement." Applicants who are accepted are required to attend school year-round in a resident-based program for up to 24 consecutive calendar months, where they are required to complete classes, in-residence training, and ROTC requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Only 40 applicants were accepted into the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program this year. Staff Sgt. Laura Ibanez, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group public health technician, was one of them.

The seven-year veteran originally applied for the program in 2017, but her first package was rejected. Although she was upset at the initial decision, the outcome did not dissuade Ibanez from her path to become a nurse as she applied again in 2018.

“I’ve wanted to become a nurse since I was eight-years old,” she said. “It was going to take more than one hurdle to stop me from reaching my dream.”

NECP offers Airmen the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree in nursing at a college or university with an Air Force ROTC detachment, or a college or university with a "cross-town agreement." Applicants who are accepted are required to attend school year-round in a resident-based program for up to 24 consecutive calendar months, where they are required to complete classes, in-residence training and ROTC requirements.

Ibanez took early steps to make her dream a reality by completing many of NECP’s pre-requisite classes as a dual-enrolled high-school student. She continued toward completing her goal as she moved to college and nearly earned an associate’s degree prior to enlisting. As an Airman, her mission continued as she then completed her Community College of the Air Force degree in Applied-Science Public-Health technology.

Ibanez, who hails from the 96th Aerospace Medicine Squadron in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, currently conducts health and food inspections in addition to ensuring workplace health compliance. Although she will be moving away from her duties as a noncommissioned officer and health technician, she said she looks forward to the challenges of being an officer. Ibanez added she would not have this success if not for the help of her deployed and home-station leadership, her husband and her extended family.

“I want to thank my leadership both here and from my home station at Eglin Air Force Base,” she said. “They, along with the love and support from my family and amazing husband, have given me guidance through the craziness of classes, package deadlines and stress that comes with the application process. It’s nice to have that support network from people who understand the challenges service members face, and continue to propel you upward and onward.”

After Ibanez graduates the program, she will have one more test — the National Council Licensure Examination, which is required for all prospective nurses. Once completed successfully, Ibanez will receive her nursing license and commission as a second lieutenant.

“I am very happy for Staff Sergeant Ibanez and the Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Cutler, 386th EMDG medical support flight commander. “During our time here, I have observed her leadership, drive and passion for excellence. I know not only will she be an excellent nurse, but she will be an outstanding officer. I truly believe the Air Force chose one of our best technicians to join the officer corps.”

Ibanez’s last stop before her first duty station as an officer will be a trip to attend the Commissioned Officer Training and the Nurse Transition Program, which helps candidates seamlessly transition back into military life. Ibanez said the path has seemed long and winding, but provided some advice to potential applicants.

“I have always tried to remember a slogan my high school track coach told me: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard’ – and it hasn't led me wrong since,” she said. “You have to keep plugging away at your goals, but eventually with hard work, you'll reach them.”