Air Force colonel displays commitment, develops Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bass
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Earning her commission in 1989, Col. Julie Stola, U.S. Air Forces Central deputy command surgeon, stepped into the wild blue yonder and began the most challenging and exciting chapter of her life.

"I wanted to travel, I wanted additional education, and I wanted to do aeromedical evacuation," said Stola. "I realized that the people that I went to school with were still doing the same thing and I just didn't want to do that."

Stola had already earned her bachelor's degree in nursing in 1986. She served in the Peace Corps prior to applying for her commission and was used to a life of adventure and travel, she said. Rural Minnesota in the fall of 1988 created a sharp contrast to Ecuador in the summer, she continued.

Stola stands atop the pillar of accomplished women in the Air Force. Her achievements can be directly correlated to her love, desire, and passion for people.

"Stola exemplifies core values in everything she does," said Lt. Col. Michele Shelton, 52nd Medical Operations Squadron commander, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. "She a genuinely kind person, but on top of that she open and honest even if it's not what you want to hear."

Shelton met Stola at Scott, AFB, Ill., while Stola was the director of operations with the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

In December of 1989, Stola was assigned to the 13th Medical Unit, Clark AB, Republic of the Philippines.

"We actually almost didn't get to Clark," said Stola. "The NPA was acting up, so our assignment was on hold; we were on and off for six weeks of training."

In 1990 though, the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, started a movement to bring back the ways of communism from the 1960s.

Stola started her career at Clark AB, which at the time had a large regional medical center.

"I had great medical surgical training, along with some in patient pediatrics training," said Stola.

After the Philippines, Stola was sent to Lindsey Air Station, Germany.

One of the best things that ever happened to Stola in the military was that she was introduced to her husband, she said. They were introduced in 1992, in the medical group hospital building elevator, she continued.

While this was one of the best things to happen to her, it wasn't without its trials. Stola and her husband have spent more of their marriage apart, than together.

Stola and her husband have only been stationed together once during her career, since Lindsey AS.

"At our last assignment together, she didn't want to deploy for a year and leave her husband alone in a foreign land," said Shelton. "However, she accepted the challenge to forward deploy knowing that it may put a strain on her personally."

Stola said that it has been harder for them as a couple since her husband separated from the military. "We wanted to get assignments where my husband could be employed," she said.

Stola's husband is a physician, and would normally build a clientele in one area and work there. Moving around with his wife would entail dropping all his patients and finding new ones every two or three years.

"We've spent a lot of time geographically separated," Stola said. "This is extremely challenging, I don't think most people understand how many women end up being geographically separated because their spouse can't work."

While she was stationed as the chief nurse for the 374th Medical Group, Yokota AB, Japan, her husband would spend six months with her in Japan, then fly back to the states to work for six months, Stola said.

Despite all the hardships in her personal life, Stola shows excellence in all she does.

"She has left her mark on every organization she's been assigned to," said Shelton. "She doesn't just change things for the sake of change, she makes thing better."

For the love of her job, the people she works with, and her country, Stola continues to champion the Air Force mission. Her husband supports her wholeheartedly in every assignment, and every mission.

"He understands that some people are going to have to give a little bit more," Stola said. "And for us that means we aren't always together."

With all she has experienced: tours in the Philippines, Germany, Japan, and seven different states; positions held as a deputy chief nurse, a chief nurse, commander of medical operations squadrons, a flight nurse in an aeromedical evacuation squadron, and a deputy command surgeon; spending the majority of her marriage apart from her husband; Stola now uses her experiences to mentor others.

"She was one of the few people who took me under their wing," Shelton said. "She showed me the ropes and taught me to be a successful flight nurse."

From Stola's experiences, she provides a perfect environment for captains and majors to open up and talk about their lives.

"I mentor a number of different people and some of them like to plan out their next two or three assignments," said Stola.

For Stola, the opportunity to mentor someone is about making sure they see the bigger picture, rather than the one that's right in front of them.

"She uses every opportunity to make a teachable moment," Shelton said. "In that moment, there is always something profound and memorable that is said and learned."

"It's been fun watching some of the people that I've known since they were lieutenants, and now some of them are lieutenant colonels," Stola said.

Stola exhibits the standards and characteristics of an Airman who cares about the Air Force and has spent her entire career developing, using, and passing on those standards to the next generation of Airmen.