Helping America’s Heroes
Captain Tracy Mayfield is on track to becoming a Major in the United States Air Force. However, her journey begins at Nova. Several friends recommended Nova’s Doctor of Psychology program to her. Mayfield (Psy.D. '05) simultaneously completed the Masters program in Clinical Psychopharmacology, which “I think helped to set me apart.”
Under mentorship of practicum advisor Vincent Van Hasselt and fellow classmate Monty Baker (Ph.D. '02), Mayfield applied for residency with the Air Force. She was one of twenty-five students selected to stay on at Andrews Air Force Base and train new staff. “It was a great honor.”
Deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan for six months, Mayfield served in a clinical capacity for both a FOB (Forward Operations Base) and COP (Combat Outpost). She saw patients with primary care medical conditions, and mental health issues like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and marital/family concerns.
Once a week, Mayfield traveled “outside the wire”, or off-base as an “army asset.” to administer voluntary treatment, commander consultations, and address specific problems with soldiers. She also served as a SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) psychologist, providing treatment to captured soldiers, and reintegrating them back into daily life. While on alert for psychological “red flags”, Mayfield taught soldiers what to expect upon returning to life and family. “They learned how crash landing, surviving until friendly forces come, and being captured all changes you as a person.”
Mayfield recalls two points of pride during her time in Afghanistan. The first came when her FOB was hit by a Taliban rocket. A local national was killed, another gravely wounded. As soldiers were brought to the aid station, Mayfield was part of the medic team (along with NSU-COM alumnus Rod Starkey) that saved a man’s life. “It was a humbling experience.”
The second was being part of a three person team that involved assessment and selection for the ANA (Afghan National Army) Special Forces. Mayfield conducted cognitive assessments on applicants and interviewed them for Special Forces command. “From a cultural, religious, military, psychological, even feminist perspective – it was so unique, rich, and rewarding.”
At Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, Mayfield has recently begun the “command track". As a mental health flight commander, she will work her way up to medical squadron and move up in rank. “The military offers many options for training and development. The challenge is managing your time to maximize those opportunities.”
Mayfield's advice for students wishing to follow in her path: get an early start, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. “There are several benefits at Nova to get connected in your first or second year; specifically, taking advantage of the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship. You get early experience of working with an active duty population and, once you graduate, you are already an officer. In the military, no matter where you go, there’s always that comfort of knowing someone who will go out of their way to help you.”
Captain Tracy Mayfield can be reached for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.