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NEWS | Feb. 25, 2021

Missouri National Guard Airmen Defines Her Legacy Through Authenticity

By Sgt. Christopher Saunders Missouri National Guard

Although the pathway to medicine is well defined, Chief Master Sgt. Carla Hampton, Superintendent of the 131st Medical Group, Missouri Air National Guard, took her passion for science and helping people down a path she could not have predicted.
The only people Hampton knew with any military background were her two uncles, but they didn’t really talk about their experiences. It wasn’t until she joined her high school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) that she was given a window into what military life was like.
“They gave a kind of fairy tale like story of travel,” Hampton said.
For many students, tuition assistance is a major attraction to joining the military, but Hampton was fortunate enough to have her college paid for through academic scholarships. Her motivation to join came from somewhere else.
“The idea that I could be sent somewhere new, outside the small world I knew in St. Louis was very exciting,” said Hampton.
It wasn’t until Hampton learned about the National Guard that she began to seriously consider military service. Having the option to continue her medical schooling, have a civilian career, and be able to serve her community on a local, state and national level was what ultimately led her to join.
“I wanted to be a doctor, and I was pretty sted-fast in that,” said Hampton. “I knew my path was in science or medicine.”
So, during her junior year of high school, Hampton joined the Missouri Air National Guard through the delayed enlistment program as a 4A0X1 (Health Services Management). This would allow Hampton to understand the inner workings of hospital management. Upon completing high school and her Air Force training, Hampton soon became the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of her section.
In her civilian career, Hampton became an analytical scientist with a focus on product development. Over the years she’s worked for many companies, including Anheuser-Busch. Part of her job is to help develop new products or tweak preexisting products. One of those benefits was that she gained discipline, which carried over into her civilian career.
Hampton credits her time in the National Guard for helping her develop skills she could carry into her civilian career.
“The discipline I learned in the Guard translated very well into my civilian sector,” said Hampton. “The work I do is very structured, you have to be very disciplined in following step-by-step process.”
Hampton was eventually selected to become a First Sergeant. In this role she learned how to care for people through building relationships. Hampton could now play a direct part in helping Guard members develop their career. She understands the importance of having a plan.
“When I joined the Guard, I didn’t really have a vision for my life in the military,” said Hampton. “Being in a senior leadership position, I want to make sure others do.”
Hampton hopes to set an example of what’s possible, especially for females and people of color. One piece of advice Hampton wishes to tell others like her, is that it’s ok to show up as your authentic self. It’s important to value each other’s unique perspectives on a more regular basis and not to limit it to a designated month.
“Being an African American female can be a challenge because there are so few of us,” said Hampton. “We often try to fit into a box of what others expect us to be.”
One of Hampton’s proudest achievements is when she served as a Human Resources Advisor. Here she focused on promoting diversity inclusion, force health and professional development. She also helped develop “Mentoring for results,” a course that will help military members get productive feedback that will advance their career.
For the last year, Hampton has been working on COVID-19 management and vaccine distribution for 131st Bomb Wing. Like most, the pandemic has completely changed the way she operates. Not being able to meet in person as proven to be a huge challenge in maintaining readiness, training, and relationships but Hampton sees the challenge as an opportunity. This has led Hampton and her team to reevaluate what is truly of value, and pushed everyone to become more flexible.
“In the midst of crisis comes innovation,” said Hampton. “We approach the challenge and have no choice but to think outside the box.”
As Hampton’s career winds down over the next few years, she wants to take the lessons she’s learned and help others achieve what she has. For anyone on the fence about joining the Guard, or on the fence about reenlisting, Hampton’s response is, “Why not? What do you stand to lose?” Hampton says it’s not just about getting an education, a job, but you also gain a perspective outside of what you already know, and get out of your comfort zone.