Air Force supports one of it's own

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Fourteen and a half years ago, Amy C. Holman enlisted in the Air Force with the goal of finishing school and possibly incorporating a foreign language while in her Air Force career.

Her choice of making the Air Force a lasting career was cut short though, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She is now Master Sgt. Dotson, 316th Training Squadron instructor. Her time in the Air Force started like most enlisted Airmen. She went to basic military training, completed technical school and learned Arabic as an intelligence student. She then headed to her first duty station at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where she spent seven years of her career, eventually becoming a first-line supervisor for several new Airmen.

"I met her for the first time when I was an airman first class," said Tech. Sgt. Greg R. Miller, 316th TRS instructor. "From the beginning, she was a person that I was going to be able to go to with questions, and that I could trust."

After Dotson had established herself as a valued team member at Fort Gordon, she started to notice something was "wrong" while she exercised.

"Fairly early in my career ... I started experiencing a lot of physical symptoms that made it a lot more difficult for me to run and to do a lot of the physical components of the component test," she said. "That is when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, so I had to learn to still be able to meet standards, but also balance that with taking care of myself."

She learned to deal with the fibromyalgia, a disease that causes widespread pain and painful response to pressure, by taking treatments and being more careful in her daily life.

While dealing with the disease, Dotson moved to Germany and started the next leg of her journey.

"That was another incredible opportunity for me and for my daughter to be able to experience a whole other culture and to grow as an Air Force member. There is a lot more in the world than just what we see in the United States, and I was able to see that for myself, and I was able to expose my daughter to it. That was something I'll always cherish."

After three years, she returned stateside and took an opportunity to return to Goodfellow to become an instructor.

"They asked me if I wanted to come back to Goodfellow, and I was really excited. Being able to interact with the students and other instructors, and to be able to share a little bit about the experiences that I've been able to have about the mission, and with the Air Force in general, has been coming full circle."

It was here that she found out her career would be cut short when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory disease that damages the insulating covers to the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which can cause physical, mental and psychiatric problems.

Shortly after this turning point, she decided it was her time to leave the Air Force.

"I did really plan with doing at least 20 [years], so in some ways I really wished I would have been able to finish that out, but it got to the point where my commander asked me, 'What I hoped for?'" Dotson said. "I had to do a lot of soul searching, because part of me really wanted to say, 'No, I can still do it,' but it's not really fair to my coworkers, that I'm not fully there to do my job. If there is someone there filling the billet, it needs to be someone who can fully fill it."

She also recalled what telling her family was like during this challenging time in her life.

"I think telling my mom was the hardest because I think she wanted to believe that there was nothing really wrong and that I was just dealing with stress and those kind of things. I tried to prepare her as much as possible and keep her informed every step of the way. Every time I come back from a different appointment, I'd line out what the different possibilities were and what the thought process was."

Dotson went on to talk about how she was a little more prepared emotionally than most people might have been in this situation.

"There have been several folks in my family who've had some significant medical and significant life challenges as well. It kind of motivates me to realize that no matter what is going on or what kind of challenges I'm facing, that life goes on. You just have to be strong and get through it."

Along with the mental preparedness of her past, she also had the support of the Air Force and her squadron to keep her strong.

"Especially here at Goodfellow, instead of feeling like I'm a burden with sometimes needing a little bit of that extra help, when folks say, 'call me if you need anything,' they actually mean it. They have been phenomenal with the amount of support. The commander reserved a handicapped spot, so I don't have to walk as far. The clinic has been amazing. I've had lots of other jobs before, and you don't get that in the civilian world."

As she looks toward her life in the civilian world, she said she trusts the military to still be there for her.

"This is something that has happened since I've been in, and they're making sure I'm taken care of. While the future is definitely uncertain to a degree, I know that I'm not just going to be left out on my own. The Veteran Affairs is going to be there to help provide medical care. I know that, at least to some degree, that my daughter and I are going to be okay."

Now that she and her squadron know she'll be taken care of, they want to wish her well as she goes on and let her to know that she'll be missed.

"Losing Master Sgt. Dotson is going to be hard on all of us, not just because of the expertise and experience operationally that she has, but just the manning loss," said Miller. "So losing a military instructor, especially the caliber of Master Sgt. Dotson, is very impactful."