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Navy Lt. Stacey R. Black stands in front of a CH-53E Super Stallion shortly before flight Aug. 20, at Al Asad, Iraq. Black is a flight surgeon for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and a native of Huntsville, Texas.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

Flight surgeon looks to future while deployed to Al Asad

21 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

Colds and broken bones take up many hours of each day while deployed for Navy Lt. Stacey R. Black, flight surgeon, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

For someone who has been driven her entire life, deploying to Iraq has been another stepping stone for her future plans.

"I think it's important to think about what's ahead of me while I am in Iraq, because even though I am out here, life still goes on back in the states," said Black. "When we deploy, it seems like we enter a time bubble, where everything stops, but it really doesn't. I always remember that I have goals to reach and things I still want to do."

Black has already done a lot in her life, but wanting to accomplish more keeps her motivated to expand her seemingly already impressive life.

"I have been flying since I was 16-years-old, and I have had my fixed-wing license since I was 17," said the Huntsville, Texas, native. "I have a long family military history, so that gave me the inspiration to join."

Black's father was an Air Force pilot during Vietnam and her grandfather was a Marine pilot during World War II. Her grandmother also served during World War II with the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

"My family did not expect me to join the military, but it was encouraged," said the University of Texas graduate. "I just felt the need to serve my country and with the Health Professions Scholarship Program, provided by the Navy, I had the opportunity to combine two things I really enjoy; flying and medicine."

Pursuing her first career path in college, Black focused on engineering, but after some time, she realized that it just wasn't for her. She remembered getting a few orthopedic procedures done during her youth and decided to look into the medical profession.

"After seeing a few surgeries and following patients during their physical therapy, I saw the end results," said the petite pilot. "The personal gratification that the surgeons got from their job had me immediately hooked."

After graduating medical school from the University of Texas Medical Branch in May of 2004, she went to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and completed her orthopedic surgery internship.

"During my internship I applied to be a flight surgeon," said the 27-year-old Texan. "I had to go through extensive physicals and a selection board, because not everybody can be a flight surgeon."

Once the internship was complete, she went to the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Fla., for aircraft water survival training, familiarization flights in several types of aircraft and ground training in addition to all the medical training involved.

"I loved flying the helicopters because it was so different from everything else I have flown," said Black. "My dad has a (T-36 training jet) so I was used to flying those already."

Black was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 16, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., upon her completion of the six-month training in January of 2006.

"I was then assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 as their acting flight surgeon," said Black. "Within six months of arriving, we were deployed to Al Asad, Iraq for seven months."

While deployed, Black and three Navy corpsmen ensure the heath and well-being of the pilots, aircrew, maintainers and support staff within the squadron.

"I am the primary care provider for the pilots and aircrew," she said. "I have had special training in order to take care of them so they are flight ready."

Besides spending most of her time making sure that the Marines in the squadron are healthy, she reads, goes to the gym, occasionally flies different missions with the squadron and also spends time making sure that life back home is ready for her return.

"My time here lets me plan my future a little better," she said. "I know that I have a normal life to go home to and things to look forward too. That makes this deployment much easier."

For a woman who never seems to have enough challenges in her life, she makes sure that she will have full schedule and busy life upon her return.

"I don't know if I see myself in a military career," said Black. "Having fewer doctors joining the services each year means more deployments. That would take away from time near family and friends."

Although Black is more than 7,000 miles away from life in the United States, she continues to keep a positive outlook by working to fulfill her dreams.

"I want to be a doctor back in Texas as well as own my own ranch," she said. "I ride horses competitively, and I enjoy the hard work and challenges that come with owning a ranch."

With another deployment in sight, Black continues to pursue everything that she wants with confidence and motivation while doing her part to serve her country and support the people that need the help of the U.S. military.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing