Alliance Grad Draws on Hometown Experience as Colonel
By SHAUN FRIEDRICHSEN
Joshua McConkey was recently promoted to the rank of Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves in Portland, Ore., a promotion he does not take lightly.
Col. McConkey is the medical director for over 80 Special Forces Pararescuemen with the Combat Search and Rescue squadron.
McConkey noted he was inspired to serve his country by his love of history, and his mentors at Alliance High School.
“For me, I was inspired to serve by the men and women who served before me,” said McConkey. “I have always been an avid history buff and some of my personal heroes are Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, and Richard Winters. While I was in high school in Alliance, both my geography teacher (Tim Walz) and my baseball coach (Bill Jelkin) were in the Army National Guard and they served as an inspiration to me to join. There were several Vietnam Veterans that taught at Alliance High; Mr. Brown (math) mentored me and helped me with my ROTC scholarship application and Phil Schweitzer helped foster my love of history.
Throughout his 18 years of experience, McConkey said that providing care for men and women on the battlefields of Iraq has been the most rewarding.
“I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom during "The Surge" in 2007 and I provided MedEvac and Air Assault medical support as part of the 2nd Battalion of the 135th Aviation Regiment,” McConkey said. “I flew with C Co, which was a Nebraska Army National Guard unit. I have also provided medical support as a Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT) Physician in the US Air Force, which provides intensive care-level medical support to State Department, Department of Defense, and other Allied personnel all over the world. I currently provide medical support in a Combat Search and Rescue Squadron as the medical director to special forces Pararescuemen (PJ's).”
The ceremony where he received his promotion was an emotional one, McConkey explained. He noted the promotion provides validation for his work and sacrifice.
“I had over 45 friends and family make the trip to Portland, Ore., and I was proud to share that moment with all of the people who helped support me through my life. The weight of the moment also became very real, as I will take on a larger leadership role in developing strategy and contributing to National Security planning in the future while helping mentor the next generation of Americans who serve,” said McConkey.
“This promotion means so much to me, as it helps validate 18 years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice,” McConkey said. “Men and women literally died in my arms on those battlefields in Iraq, and my career has always been about honoring their sacrifice. It motivates me every day to be a better leader, to work harder and to celebrate every moment that I'm alive on this Earth. It also provides me the opportunity to thank everyone who helped develop me as a person. To all my teachers in Alliance, to my church and congregation at St John's Lutheran Church, to my coaches, friends and family, and to my mentors who have helped me along the way — thank you for helping me be the best citizen I could be. I'm not done yet; there's still a world of challenges to overcome and I will continue to work on solving them.”
McConkey encourages future generations to serve their country, noting that anyone, no matter where they are from, can make a difference in the world around them.
“For the next generation of Americans, I would tell them all that your country and the world needs you,” said McConkey. “There is no shortage of challenges or evil in this world! From a small rural town like Alliance, Nebraska, you can make the difference. Serving in the military has provided incredible experiences, world travel, and opportunities to make a mark on World History. You can be a real life super hero and make this world a better place! Serving has been challenging and the pain and loss I have endured has made me appreciate every day and work even harder to keep America safe.”