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NEWS | Sept. 2, 2022

Two Colorado National Guard Members Serve as Sisters in Arms

By U.S. Army Capt. Remington Henderson, Colorado Army National Guard Public Affairs

AURORA, Colo. – Two sisters have come together in a unique unit where they are not only sisters but sisters in arms.

Serving in separate branches, U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Lee and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julie Lee are both members of the Colorado National Guard’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield explosive Enhanced Response Force Package.

The sisters are able to serve together due to the unique nature of the CERFP. This specialized joint team assists local, state and federal authorities in assessing the likely outcome of a catastrophic event, developing consequence management tactics and augmenting emergency management agency capabilities.

CERFP is a rapidly deployable state, regional and national all-hazards response team able to provide search and extraction, decontamination, remains recovery, communications support, medical triage and command and control.

These sisters serve today thanks to a bit of chance and a common interest. Their family emigrated from the Republic of Korea to the United States when Jessica and Julie were 12 and 11, respectively. Their father and maternal grandfather served in the Republic of Korea Army alongside U.S. Army Soldiers.

“When my sister and I first talked about joining the military, my parents were very supportive,” said Jessica. “I know our family would not be here if there weren’t people who served in the Korean War. I know how much dedication and sacrifices it needs to fight in the war. Our grandfather served in the Vietnam War along with the U.S. military. He struggled so much after the war, and it took his whole life to recover. Because of that, our family is so thankful for all the Korean War veterans.”

Their father is an engineer, and their mother is a dental assistant. Toward the end of high school, they both aspired to become doctors.

Knowing that the medical school application process is arduous and selective, they looked for ways to give themselves a competitive advantage while also getting experience in the field. Their choice to become emergency medical technicians was not unusual.

“I wanted to ensure that I have true passion in medicine and spend the next couple of years studying before applying to medical school,” said Julie. “I wanted to get diverse experiences and chose to become an EMT because they are the first responders that can provide a wide variety of patient care in most emergency situations.”

Julie completed training to become an EMT but had difficulty finding work without any experience. It was at that point she met military medics giving a demonstration at her school.

“In our last week of EMT school, an Army recruiter came to our class and talked about the benefits of becoming a combat medic in the U.S. Army,” said Julie. “He mentioned the Soldiers of the National Guard, which I had never heard of before, are Citizen-Soldiers that are able to live life as civilians but are still able to serve the country. 

“After I graduated from EMT school, I started to look for jobs and shortly found that a lot of EMT jobs wanted some experience beforehand, and that’s when I contacted the Army recruiter about becoming a medic in the military and also introduced him to my sister, Jessica.”

Jessica liked the idea of being an Army combat medic. She said she thought it would give her more diverse skills before entering the medical field. She joined one of the search and extraction teams, where she had to learn additional skills to help rescue people in dire situations such as a broken elevator shaft.

“I was very drawn to the fact that combat medics do a lot of hands-on medical procedures on the field,” said Jessica. “I also liked the fact that they are allowed to do procedures such as cricothyrotomy and needle chest compression that EMTs cannot perform on the civilian side.”

Julie took a more pragmatic approach, figuring that most doctors spend their time in clinics and hospitals. She said being an Air Force Medic would align more closely with that role. She later learned an additional benefit was the networking experience. Since the Colorado Air National Guard provides doctors, physician assistants and other medical personnel to the CERFP, Julie has been able to build strong relationships and take advantage of shadowing opportunities.

“I was able to get a lot of hospital experience as an Air Force medic,” said Julie. “For our last half of Air Force medic training, we rotated between different specialties in the military hospital. I was able to learn a variety of procedures and met a large spectrum of patients. Also, I had an opportunity to go to Rush Medical School as one of my trauma training and practiced procedures like chest tubes, needle decompression and intubation on cadavers. I am very fortunate to have these opportunities, which I wouldn’t have as a traditional pre-medical student.”

Together, they have been in the CERFP unit for four years. Since they are on different teams, they are not always side-by-side, but they see each other often at training events and occasionally as part of the job. Julie had to check Jessica’s vitals when she came out of the hot zone during their latest exercise to ensure her ability to continue with the mission.

“I never thought I would be working with my sister on the same mission when we joined different branches,” said Jessica. “But I love learning about what she does on the CERFP mission and am very excited to see her every now and then to cheer each other up.”



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