Osan NCO accepted into Air Force nursing program
OSAN AIR BASE - Staff Sgt. Charles Finklea is trading his stripes for bars after being accepted into the Air Force's Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program, an educational opportunity that covers tuition and still provides active-duty pay.
NECP offers active-duty enlisted Airmen the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing, take the national licensing exam and attend Commissioned Officer Training upon completion to reserve a spot as a nurse in the Air Force.
"He would be a great addition to any team," said Master Sgt. Lee Schmidt, 51st Medical Group first sergeant. "He has worked hard throughout his whole career. I am very proud of him and his willingness to go that extra mile. It is very well deserved."
Finklea, who works at the 51st Medical Operations Squadron immunization clinic, has been an Air Force medic for more than seven years, but it was only after one of the most destructive hurricanes that killed thousands off the southern coast of the U.S., that he knew he wanted more.
"It was actually Hurricane Katrina that made me want to be a nurse," Finklea said. "We were out there supporting the disaster relief as medics and looking at all those faces who were affected by it made me realize what I really wanted."
Finklea attended night school while stationed at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., to finish any prerequisite classes he needed to get into the program. After finishing, he put together a package and sent it on the way with help from his leadership.
A few months later, Finklea was working away from his section when he received a call telling him to return to work, a call he thought was bad news.
"The way it sounded, I thought I was in trouble," he said. "But when I walked into the clinic, I saw everyone I worked with standing in the lobby. My commander had second lieutenant bars in his hand. I knew it was my time."
This was his moment. However, it was not his first time trying to get into the nursing program.
"I tried three different times, and I didn't give up," he said. "It's all about timing. Before it may not have been my time, and if I didn't get it this time, I would have tried again."
Finklea's motivation is also due partially to his parents, who taught him hard work is worth the outcome.
"My parents encouraged me to keep pushing," he said. "You have to keep faith in your leadership, do your job, know your focus, and try again."
Schmidt also believes perseverance is a key to success for anyone.
"Keep plugging away at it, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. If it's a dream you have, reach for it."
Finklea will start school in the fall of 2012 for two years before his commissioning.
Visit the Air Force Commissioning Nursing Program website for more information on how to apply to the program.