Canadian officer gains experience through exchange program

  • Published
  • By Airman Daniel Garcia
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Growing up, Capt. Damien Miller’s father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so he became used to constantly moving around and calling any place he ended up with his family “home.”

In 2004, Miller followed in his father’s footsteps, commissioning as an officer in the RCAF himself. In 2012 he pursued a path in aeromedical evacuation (AE) after eight years as a critical care nurse.

“I attended the aeromedical evacuation course run by the Canadian Armed Forces at 8 Wing, Trenton, Ontario,” Miller said. “This course is similar to the one that the United States Air Force aeromedical evacuation crewmembers attend at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and is designed to teach nursing officers and medical technicians how to care for patients in the air.”

During the course, Maj. Jac Solghan, a U.S. Air Force exchange officer stationed in Canada, and Capt. Carol Nicholson, a Canadian flight nurse, introduced Miller to the Air Force Military Personnel Exchange Program -- an opportunity that would extend his experience beyond the RCAF.

“I admired their experience, knowledge and obvious passion for the AE world,” said Miller. “I spoke to both of them at length about their experiences in Canada and the U.S. and learned that it was something that I could eventually apply for. In 2014, a call for nominations was released, and I submitted my name.”

Shortly after, Miller was selected for the program.

Miller arrived at Scott AFB in July 2015 to begin his assignment with the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

“I enjoy the challenge of changing duty stations and considered it something to look forward to,” Miller said. “This move is very different because I have not just moved cities or jobs but have begun working within an entirely different organization -- one with different rules, publications, processes and even lingo.”

Miller said he considers the greatest challenge he has had since arriving has been learning how the Air Force functions and how he can function within it. However, with support from his wingmen, he said he believes he’s set up for success.

“Almost everything from obtaining an email address to gaining access to online programs and computer based training, along with attending mission related briefings, has required some sort of extra effort to accomplish due to my status as a foreign exchange officer,” Miller said.

“Fortunately, the 375th AES and the people within it have been tremendously supportive, patient and understanding, and have consistently gone above and beyond to ensure that I have all the tools I require to fulfill my role as an aeromedical evacuation crew member,” he continued.

Staff Sgt. Dasha Ermanova, a 375th AES evacuation technician, has worked with Miller for eight months now.

“It is a tremendous honor to have Capt. Miller in our simulation and technology flight,” Ermanova said.

“He is not only highly clinically inclined but also extremely motivated. He has diligently worked to better our processes through improving our simulated scenarios and offering his vast medical knowledge. Aside from elevating our program, he has proven to be a respectable leader and mentor. He is honest and forward in a tactful manner, and knows how to find answers.”

On May 14, 2012, the surgeon general of the United States as well as the surgeons general of Australia, Canada and Great Britain signed an international proclamation of understanding with the intent to promote cooperation and interoperability of AE assets between these nations in hopes of supporting each other when and if required.

“I believe that exchange postings, such as the one I am privileged to have been offered, promote this goal,” Miller said. “Being such close neighbors, I feel it is incredibly important for both Canada and the United States to have programs such as this. I believe the exchange program not only provides individuals the opportunity to expand their own personal and professional knowledge, but also acts to keep the relationship between our armed forces as a whole strong.”

Ermanova said she believes that a leader has to be the example and feels Miller is a mentor who will listen to his people while offering help and an opinion.

“Capt. Miller knows the Air Force song,” Ermanova said. “That may sound insignificant and silly but, I find this to be pretty great because even though he is a very proud Canadian, he shows great respect for our country and our military. Bottom line, I would have to say I wouldn’t mind having a Capt. Miller in every section.”