Enlisted trade boots for books, now serve Tampa community members

  • Published
  • By Air Force Master Sgt. Holly Roberts-Davis
  • Federal Vaccine Response

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Jessup, 23rd Maintenance Operations Squadron, worked as a HC-130 maintenance instructor at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia when the Air Force announced a new program designed to boost numbers for its Nurse’s corps. 

The Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program launched in 2007 is a two-part process. The first-half is a paid-in-full bachelor-level education with a nursing degree. The second is a bid into the commissioned ranks of the Air Force.

Jessup was one of the first 15 enlisted who was accepted into the program during its first year. 

Now, Maj. Michael Jessup is serving on a deployment to the state-run, federally-supported Community Vaccination Center in Tampa, Florida as the vaccination tent’s medical director. 

“I’ve been in for about 20 years, started out as a C-130 crew chief and did a lot of traveling,” said Jessup, family nurse practitioner in the family health clinic at the 21st medical operations squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “My previous assignment before I got picked up for school was at Moody Air Force Base where I applied for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program, and they sent me to school and I’ve been at various locations since.”

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth Turk, who works with Jessup, hopes to follow in his footsteps. Turk submitted her package for the NECP, and needed permission to still deploy and support the Tampa CVC. 

“As soon as I joined the Air Force I heard about the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program, so that’s been my goal ever since,” said Turk. “It’s my passion to take care of people and I want to reach my full potential and have a bigger scope to be able to do more as a nurse.”

Turk says being here and working with other nurses who were prior enlisted has reaffirmed her decision to apply for the program. 

“Seeing them and how far they’ve come, hearing how much they love it and how glad they are, I’m very excited about it,” she said.

Turk says she’s also had an opportunity to work with nurses who didn’t use the program that wish they would have. U.S. Air Force Maj. Kelly Tabor, a former Security Forces Master Sgt. and Raven, says he applied for the program but his school didn’t meet eligibility requirements. 

“I was enlisted for 15 years and was working at the warfare center in the 421st combat training squadron.” said Tabor. “I did apply for the NECP but my tuition was over the cap limit, so I decided to go ahead and take care of it myself and finish school on my own.”

Tabor says his job at the time encouraged everyone to pursue school. Though he didn’t go through the program, he says it’s a great opportunity for those who struggle to find time for both school and work.

For those who maybe considering the process, Turk says it’s all about the end goal. 

“It’s a very long process and there were a couple times I said ‘I’ll just try again next year’ because it was frustrating” said Turk. “But just remember why you joined, what you’re there for, and that the end goal is to be a nurse. Yeah, it’s tough when you’re in the middle of it —even saying you tried is worth it.”

Both Jessup and Tabor agree they enjoyed their former careers, yet are happy they went in a different direction.

“I loved being a crew chief. In my first five years enlisted I went to 17 different countries which is amazing considering where I came from and where I grew up,” said Jessup. “But one of the things I always was thinking about was that I’d be the first person in my family to get a college degree. The Air Force provided me that opportunity and I wouldn’t change it.”

Tabor also recommends anyone hoping to apply for the program to start early. The NECP application process is lengthy, and may require applicants to complete program-specific college requirements before being selected. 

“I enjoyed being security forces,” said Tabor. “But I felt like I had done everything I could, becoming a nurse and an officer has been very rewarding for me.”

To be considered for the NECP board, applicants must be U.S. citizens with a minimum rank of Airman 1st Class, should have no more than 10 years total active federal service as of July 30 of the board year, though the requirement is waiverable. 

In addition, Airmen must meet time-on-station and retainability requirements, possess current security clearances, be worldwide qualified and commissioned by age 42. Applicants are also required to meet the minimum grade point average requirement of the accepted nationally accredited nursing school.

For more information about the NECP and other Air Force programs, visit AFPC’s public website at http://www.afpc.af.mil/.

U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing continued, flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-government response to COVID-19.