EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Serving in Alaska is a whole new journey for one Medical Services Corps officer. Maj. Elizabeth Mangini serves in the 168th Wing, 168th Medical Group, at Eielson Air Force Base. She started in the Army in the Medical Services Corps and has returned to the MSC career field in the Alaska Air National Guard.
“I could have never predicted the path that led me to become an Air Force MSC and Alaska National Guard Officer,” said Mangini. “From Active-duty Army MSC to Alaska Air National Guard MSC has been an adventure.”
In 2003 Mangini was commissioned into the Army Medical Department, serving at every echelon, from the point of injury on the battlefield, helping to set up ambulance exchange points in Iraq to working at the strategic level, serving as the medical liaison for Army Public Affairs on the Army Staff at the Pentagon.
“I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to serve in the Army,” said Mangini. “I had so many wonderful mentors and was always surrounded by guardian angels. Army medics are the lifeblood of the force. They continue to show their relevance as they lead the way in the COVID-19 Pandemic response, everything from research and development to deploying into hard-hit communities.”
During her entire Army career, the nation was at war.
“I was proud to be a small part of the contributions of Army medicine,” said Mangini.
Mangini served in the Army until 2015 when she took a break in service. “We are a dual military family, and I took a break to be the continuity for our family at the time.”
During this time, she found Alaska while visiting her sister and brother-in-law, who were in the military and stationed in Alaska.
Mangini explained the wonder and excitement they had found, “We fell in love with the community and culture. We knew it was the ideal place to live, work and raise our family. We took a leap of faith and moved to Alaska when my husband landed a civilian job working for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at JBER.”
“Our family reconnected in so many ways but, we felt an aching in our hearts,” said Mangini. “We missed being in the military, and we missed serving.”
Mangini wanted to find a way to serve again. “How could we stay in Alaska, the home we grew to love and also continue to serve?”
She learned of the Alaska Air National Guard and wanted to understand more about the mission.
“I drove by the 176th Wing and decided to stop. When I walked in, I met Col. Scott Coniglio, the Vice Commander of the 176th Wing. He showed me around the wing and taught me all about the Alaska Air National Guard. It was one of those amazing, serendipitous moments.”
Mangini was now set on joining the Alaska Air Guard. “I was inspired about the mission because of the passion he and others had at the organization. I began researching their mission, and I wanted to continue my career and contribute.”
Mangini said she joined the 176th Public Affairs team to find her footing in the Alaska Air National Guard.
“It was a unique opportunity because every story I covered helped me learn more about the mission at every level, tactical, operational, and strategic.”
The 176th Wing conducts combat search and rescue missions, agile combat support for air expeditionary force taskings, strategic airlift, homeland defense, and defense support to civil authorities.
“I joined an amazing public affairs team,” said Mangini. “They became my battle buddies being prior Army themselves and now my Wingmen for life.”
While serving at the 176th Wing, her husband simultaneously joined the 168th Medical Group as a bioenvironmental engineer officer.
“My husband told me how amazing the 168th Medical Group is at Eielson,” said Mangini. “When I learned of an opportunity to serve in the MDG, I applied and sent up prayers. My wing leadership encouraged me to explore my passions and allowed me to get back to my MSC roots. My application was accepted, and the Air Guard sent me back to school.”
Mangini now found herself in the Air Force HAS Class 21-C. She said, “Top 4 life, which was our motto.”
“In the National Guard, MSC officers hold a unique position called the Medical Administrative Officer,” explained Mangini. “You are a vital link between the full-time and part-time staff and to the higher headquarters.”
Her first mission back in the MSC role was leading a team of 12 to Kodiak in support of Arctic Care Innovate Readiness training. While serving in Kodiak, the team facilitated 2,156 patient encounters, provided over 11,405 medical and veterinary services resulting in 30,172 hours of readiness training at seven separate medical care locations in preparation for future austere deployments.
Mangini and her husband hope their three daughters will want to join the Alaska Air National Guard someday as well.
“Hopefully, one day, they will have the opportunity to join and serve, too,” said Mangini. “Many here in the Air Guard have a legacy of service, and you will find the younger generations serving alongside their parents, aunts, and uncles. Many in the Guard stay as long as possible too. It isn’t unusual to find members here who have served 30-40 years. When you love what you do, it’s not really work.”
The 168th Wing provides air refueling, missile warning, and space surveillance for the state nation.
“We are the Guardians of the Last Frontier,” said Mangini. “We execute our missions in some of the most austere conditions in the world. In my humble opinion, I have served in the best two wings in the entirety of the Air Force.”
Mangini believes in being open to possibilities.
“Never say never,” said Mangini. “I didn’t even know it was possible to switch branches. If you are called to serve, you can find a way.”
Magini continued, “There are limitless opportunities in the NGB. I encourage you to look at the possibilities you have at the place you call home.”
The 168th Wing serves on local, state, and national missions. The Wing recently supported Operation Afghan Welcome, the 49th Inauguration ceremony in D.C., and response to COVID-19 state and federal missions.
“There is something very special about being a Citizen Airmen and an Alaskan,” said Mangini. “I get to make a difference here in my state, and I can volunteer on National missions. The opportunities are limitless and enduring, and the company is second to none.”