Celebrating Dragon Veterans 2021 – Jim Sterling

At MSUM, we value the dedication, responsibility and leadership veterans bring to our university, both as students and as employees. We proudly honor all veterans who have served our country and recognize a few of our Dragon veterans for their commitment to serve and protect.

Jim Sterling, Associate Professor, School of Nursing & Healthcare Leadership

Jim Sterling joined MSUM in 2016. “After hosting an intern at the Fargo Veterans Health Administration, I was impressed with the quality of students from MSUM’s baccalaureate and master’s programs and started teaching as adjunct faculty,” Jim said.

Jim’s military service began with the U.S. Coast Guard, where he served aboard a cutter and at the Special Services unit in Yorktown, Va. He primarily taught sea survival to officer candidates. After six years, he left the Coast Guard to pursue a college education but was later recruited by the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a Medical Service Corps Officer (healthcare administrator) for nearly 24 years.

While in the U.S. Air Force, he served our country with honor. Some of his duties included:

  • Selected by the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General to serve as the Chief of Medical Education and Training for 44,000 worldwide medics at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
  • Managed the information technology and administration departments at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C.
  • Served as the administrator for a 50-bed tent hospital when deployed to the United Arab Emirates.
  • Taught Air Force healthcare administrators at the School of Allied Healthcare in Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.
  • Served as Deputy Director for the newly Congressionally mandated Virtual Military Health Institute at Fort Sam in Houston, Texas. There he taught leadership and administrative skills to Department of Defense medical commanders.
  • Operated the Medical Capstone program, where he selected the top 22 medical leaders in the DoD to receive specialized training with legislators and top healthcare leaders in the United States.

Serving humbly

Jim is most proud of serving as the commander of an aeromedical evacuation unit. His team flew into combat zones on cargo aircraft then reconfigured the aircraft into a flying ambulance. They loaded injured patients onto the aircraft to be flown to a European country for medical stabilization.

Another noteworthy assignment Jim shared was when he led an aeromedical evacuation team into Iraq to set up evacuation sites along a corridor from Kuwait to Bagdad. During that time, his team flew out six American prisoners who Special Forces had rescued.

During his final assignment, he realigned five medical treatment facilities in five states under Global Strike Command. Jim is proud of the opportunity to lead groups of healthcare workers that had to work in challenging environments. He credits the assignments he went on as the reason he attained the rank of Colonel and served on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Air Force Medical Service Corps.

Jim says military service has transformed his life in many ways. He’s learned the value of communication and attention to small details. “I learned by observing what my peers did, both right and wrong, and I pass this on to my students. Having solid communication skills—especially clear and concise writing when so much communication is done in writing, cannot be overstated,” Jim said.

Serving his country led to many priceless adventures and allowed him to meet, lead and work with many strong people. “Serving in the military is a challenging occupation, and it involves a very structured and regimented lifestyle, both on and off duty. I could not have selected a better career path—service in the military was a natural fit for my family and me and we embraced it,” he said.

Jim plans to celebrate Veterans Day with his family and to take time to reflect. “I spend time with my family who supported my service and that of my staff and their families during long deployments,” Jim said. “Later in the day, I always find some time alone to reflect on the silent services of our military and veterans who work 24/7 in some of the harshest conditions around the globe.”

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