Jessica Petramala remembers watching Air Force basic training graduations in 2017 while living near the parade field at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
In 2015, following a seven-year career as a dental assistant, Jessica became a stay-at-home mom when she welcomed her first son with her husband, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Noah Petramala.
“Seeing the graduations ignited a spark of remembrance of my husband’s graduation and all the growth we had experienced leading up to that moment,” she said. “I just knew I wanted to serve alongside him and contribute to our family as well as give back to the Air Force and my country.”
Jessica, a native of Thornton, Colorado, was 30 years old when she left for Air Force basic training. In the two years since, she has earned numerous accolades. Petramala, now a senior airman assigned to the 86th Medical Squadron at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) serves as an aerospace medical service technician in the hospital’s Medical-Surgical Ward.
“I stomped the gas pedal, and I haven’t let up yet,” she said. “I want this experience in my life to be nothing short of amazing, so I have been extremely open minded to every opportunity to better myself.”
Petramala affirmed her desire to grow professionally when she was named Airman of the Year for the 86th Airlift Wing, the host wing at Ramstein Air Base, in February 2022. She credits her success to her husband and the team she works with.
“They all set the standard high for me when I arrived at LRMC,” she said. “They have encouraged and supported me to reach my goals. I couldn't have done it without my support at home and at work.”
During Operation Allies Refuge, Petramala displayed selfless service as she has also earned the Army Achievement Medal – Operation Allies Refuge and was named Airman USAFE-AFAFRICA before arriving at LRMC.
Jessica was previously named Airman of the Quarter, Aerospace Medical Service Technician of the Year for USAFE-AFAFRICA, 86th MDS Airman of the Year, 86th Group Airman of the Year and 86th Air Wing Airman of the Year. She has also earned the Army Achievement Medal – Operation Allies Refuge and was named a Senior Airman (SrA) Below the Zone winner, which was her No. 1 goal before arriving at LRMC.
“Her dedication to nursing education has contributed to the competence and development of our current and future Army nurses. Because of her efforts, LRMC can continue to provide lasting safe and quality patient care in line with its mission,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bianca Munoz, noncommissioned officer in charge, Medical-Surgical Ward. “Her leadership within her work center, incessant inner drive and motivation, and pursuit of process improvement and innovation pushed her to go above and beyond the expectations set for her by her supervisors.”
Airman of the Year is awarded at different levels, starting at the squadron level, then progressing to the group and then the wing. With her recent recognition, Petramala is now being considered for Airman of the Year at United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa.
Aside from being a stellar performer at work, off the clock Petramala has focused on career development and educational growth, earning an associate’s degree in practical nursing. Additionally, as a volunteer with the USO, she helped create care packages for over 75 deployed Service Members. She also volunteers to teach nursing topics at LRMC for new Army Nurses in addition to participating in skills fairs, a hands-on event designed to hone patient care skills of medical staff.
Jessica said she is proud to have participated in several major efforts at LRMC, including Operation Allies Refuge and Operation Allies Welcome.
“It was incredible to see everyone come together in such a short period of time to make that mission such a success,” she said. “We were all stretched so thin while preparing two extra wards to accommodate (evacuees). One thing I’ve noticed is no matter how many patients are on our floor, continued high-quality care is the standard.”
Before she and her husband welcomed their second son, Jessica was involved with Operation Allies Refuge, where she worked in the LRMC Emergency Department to assist Afghan civilian evacuees.
“I am so honored to have been a part of the greatest humanitarian mission in history,” she said. “The amount of strength and resilience I saw in my fellow Service Members with such little time to prepare was incredible. The evacuees were exhausted and scared. I was happy to provide some sense of comfort and care to them as they came into the Emergency Department. I hope I made an impact in some of their lives because I know I will never forget many of them.”
Munoz said “Jessica’s efforts helped LRMC’s Medical-Surgical Ward expedite patient discharges by hours and directly impacted the beds available for new admissions.”
“Her leadership during Operation Allies Refuge facilitated the establishment of an additional hospital ward and directly enhanced LRMC's capabilities to effectively care for Afghan travelers,” Munoz said.
Jessica’s next career goal is admission to the Nursing Enlisted Commissioning Program (NECP), where she hopes to graduate nursing school.
“I always remind myself, ‘You didn’t come this far to only come this far’,” she said. “I am forever grateful for the opportunities to learn and grow my knowledge within my career and my husband’s career. The Air Force has provided experiences and people in my life that have shaped me to be the person I am today.”