E-3 to CC

Written by: Senior Airman Evan Lichtenhan, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Stanley Grodrian, 5th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander, poses for a photo at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 12, 2023. U.S. Air Force photo I Senior Airman Evan Lichtenhan

In 1984, there was a young man freshly graduated from high school who had only dreamt of one thing; to serve his country just like his father.

As soon as that young man could, he signed an active-duty contract with the United States Air Force and shipped off to Basic Military Training.

“I joined at 17 and had my 18th birthday in basic training,” said Lt. Col. Stanley Grodrian, 5th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron commander. “I didn’t really have a preference on what I did, I just wanted to serve.”

Grodrian’s first duty location as a Security Forces defender was K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan. He enjoyed being a defender, and found value in his service to the United States Air Force.

After completing his 4-year contract, he decided to make the Air Force a career. Unfortunately, the Air Force had other plans for him.

“They called all of us first term Airmen at that point,” Grodrian said. “Essentially the message was: closing bases, cutting the force, we don’t need your services, have a nice life.”

Due to base realignment and closures of 1988, Grodrian separated from active duty. Although he was discharged, his desire to serve did not vanish. He decided to join the Indiana Air National Guard and pursue a career in law enforcement.
“I thought I was set up pretty well for a law enforcement career,” explained Grodrian. “I had a degree, I had been on our base hostage negotiation team, was trained by the FBI, I thought I was set up. But in the late 80’s, the economy had taken a downturn. Every department I applied for had a two to three year waiting list.”

After applying to multiple police departments with no luck, one of Grodrian’s friends convinced him to take a security job at a local hospital. Another friend encouraged Grodrian to take an EMT course, which ultimately started him down the path of medicine. Grodrian’s passion for the medical field bloomed from there on.

He started working as a technician in the local emergency room, where he eventually found out the nurses he worked side by side with made twice the amount of money as paramedics, for only one more year of school. This helped him make the decision to stay in school and pursue a nursing degree.

“I still liked that prehospital environment,” said Grodrian. “I was a flight nurse for ten years and traveled all over the country. I had a blast. But there was always something that I didn’t finish in uniform.”

It had been 14 years since Grodrian was on active duty and in 2009, right before he turned 40 years old, he decided he had one more shot to rejoin the Air Force.

“I started talking to a recruiter, all of the stars aligned,” said Grodrian. “They took me back, and I’ll stay until they kick me out again. Civilian flight nursing was the best job ever, but this is the best career.”

Grodrian returned to active duty as a Captain, working in the emergency room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a bedside nurse. He found the transition from civilian to military emergency rooms to be challenging. In his civilian life, he worked his way up to leadership positions, and returned to working as a bedside nurse when he re-enlisted.

Grodrian says he had one main objective for his second enlistment. He decided he needed to join a critical care air transport team (CCAT). Unfortunately, he never deployed with a CCAT, but he did get the opportunity to do so with a forward surgical team.

Eventually, after many years of hard work and four deployments, Grodrian found himself in command of the 5th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

“Squadron Command has been fantastic,” Grodrian said. “Not that it’s all been a bed of roses, but it has been fantastic to help our folks grow.”

Additionally, he has two sons who decided they wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps. One is an Army Intelligence officer, and the other is an Air Force Recruiter.

Grodrian is now taking command of the 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
With a surplus of hardships and challenges, Grodrian managed to remain resilient and take control of his future, starting from an Airman 1st Class walking the flightline, to becoming a Medical Readiness Squadron commander.

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