There are few dull moments in Gig Harbor resident Nicole Solana’s life.
That how things happen when one is balancing a military career as a flight surgeon for the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and pursing a leisure side dominated by the desire to run marathons.
“I think it is stressful because for me personally I take pride in what I do,” Solana said of her military career. “I want to make sure I’m fulfilling my superior’s needs, and I enjoy it. It is fast paced and exciting.”
Flight surgeons provide aviation and general services for Army aviation personnel. Solana keeps her commander up to date on what’s going on medically for the more than 2,000 troops in the brigade.
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Solana and other flight doctors make sure that all pilots, soldiers and others in the unit are ready to move out at a moment’s notice.
I’m in charge of their medical readiness. We are a fighting force — that is what we do in the military, defending the nation, (and) making sure people are ready to go when we have to go.
“I’m in charge of their medical readiness. We are a fighting force — that is what we do in the military, defending the nation, (and) making sure people are ready to go when we have to go,” she said.
Solana, a Tampa, Florida native, decided she wanted to enlist in the Florida Army National Guard when she graduated from high school.
After her stint in the National Guard, Solana enrolled at the University of South Florida and joined ROTC. The National Guard paid for her college education.
Solana had never really considered becoming a doctor, but her mentor in ROTC was a pilot and it was at that point she entertained the idea of becoming a pilot and a doctor. When Solana graduated from USF and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, she served in the Army Reserve for a couple of years and then applied for and was accepted into medical school. Her application for the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) was approved and she was awarded a scholarship that covered all her medical school expenses.
She attended Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia on the Virginia Tech Campus, and has been stationed at JBLM since 2011.
Now living in Gig Harbor, the 34-year-old Army captain says she doesn’t mind the daily commute. An avid runner, she finds the area is the perfect place for her love of outdoor activities. Her boyfriend, who serves in the Navy, is stationed in Bremerton.
Running has always been a part of Solana’s life.
At 10 years old, she took up running because her sister was a runner. Now, Solana runs daily and has competed in more than 130 half and full marathons, triathlons and Spartan Races. Solana notched the 30th best time among all female runners at the 41st annual Marine Corps Marathon in October.
Solana was also recently featured for her fitness excellence in the 2016 issue of Futures, a Joint Service publication of the Department of Defense.
“She is all about living a life that motivates fitness,” said good friend Alexa Walrond, who works with Solana and admires her for her motivation, work ethic and her dedication to physical fitness.
“I feel I’ve had more opportunities as a woman,” she said, adding that she is able to handle the stress related to her job.
Solana and her brigade are always ready to move out if they receive the call.
“If at any time the brigade were to be called to duty, I would go with them and my team and I would be in charge of their medical needs,” she said.