Colonel Alice Chapman, United States Air Force

Our veterans play such an important role in, and for, our country, that I wanted to create a section of WhereToThisTime to salute them and thank them for all of their dedication and time protecting our freedom. And since many of them move around often and experience not only different areas of our country, but many cultures in the world, they are the perfect people to find out about our world in depth. Often when we go on vacation, we are only in a new place for a couple of weeks, just enough time to get a glimpse of the people and how they live. But to be given the opportunity to immerse yourself in a totally different culture is very special.

My friend, Alice, has served in the Air Force since 1994. We met in high school in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1982. She moved to North Carolina and I have been amazed watching how she has grown and how her career has evolved. I'm very proud to be able to say I know a Colonel in the Air Force. :)

Here's Alice's amazing story so far!

Iwo Jima memorial in Washington, DC at the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon

I was majoring in Medical Technology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and in the process of applying for admission for my clinical year (the program consisted of 3 years of didactic work at UNC-G and then a 12 month clinical rotation at a hospital laboratory) when I decided late in my junior year that I really wanted to go to veterinary school instead. I think what attracted me to veterinary medicine was that I found it challenging and interesting to put together clues to solve a problem when the animal couldn't simply say, "Doc, it hurts right here when I jump up on my person's couch." Veterinary medicine, in which you are quite often going on physical exam findings and observation, seemed like the perfect blend of science and art.

So after receiving my Bachelor's degree in Biology at the UNSC-G I worked for a year at two jobs (a veterinary technician in a small animal practice and as a laboratory technician at a local hospital) while I took a few prerequisite courses at NC Agricultural and Technical State University. It was at NC A& T that I met the man I would later marry after I graduated from veterinary school almost 5 years later:-)

I practiced companion animal medicine for 2.5 years, but after a little more than a year in practice, I realized that I was not going to be happy practicing for the next 30+ years. In North Carolina at that time (1992), about 80% of the caseload in a veterinary practice was dermatology-related, aka "itchy dog or cat." The products available now to control flea and tick infestations weren't around then, and food/environmental allergies were only beginning to be approached in a holistic way. I was giving a lot of cortisone injections and educating on how to control fleas on the pet, in the yard, and in the home, to which many owners would say, "Doc, I don't really care why he's scratching, just give him a shot to make him stop." I loved it when a good internal medicine case came in the door, because I loved to solve a complex problem, but there weren't enough of those to offset all the itchy dogs and cortisone injections!

When I was deciding what I wanted to do next with my career, I thought back to the courses I really enjoyed in vet school. Epidemiology and public health were at the top of the list. Epidemiology is the branch of medicine that studies the distribution of health-related events in a population, and then applies that knowledge to control or prevent health problems. I was back to solving mysteries by following the clues! Epidemiologists work in many different settings, but I found my niche practicing public health and epidemiology as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force.       

I entered active duty in January 1994, and because I had a doctoral degree, I came into the Air Force as a Captain. Most people would look at my rank and assume I'd been around awhile, but I was brand new and had to act like I knew what I was doing:-)

My first assignment was Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX. If you think of a military base as a city, and the base commander as the Mayor of the city, I was the base Public Health Officer, which is similar to running the local health department in that small city. My team and I inspected restaurants, ensuring proper sanitation and hygiene to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks, investigated disease outbreaks, interviewed and educated patients with communicable diseases to identify others who may have been exposed and to break the chain of infection. I also managed an occupational health program, travel medicine program, and briefed deploying military personnel on how to stay healthy when they deployed to countries around the world where infectious diseases frequently occurred.

Over the years, I've had a wide variety of assignments as an epidemiologist, faculty member, a full-time graduate student, an intelligence analyst, commander, an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and public health consultant. I've lived in 7 different states and 1 foreign country, and traveled throughout the U.S. and South Asia (Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Australia).

One of my dream assignments was as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.  EIS officers are called the "disease detectives." Whenever you hear about the CDC going to investigate a disease outbreak somewhere, you can be sure there are EIS officers involved. I investigated several human rabies cases, a large outbreak of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever affecting mostly young children on a Native American Reservation, a flying squirrel-associated typhus outbreak at a wilderness camp, and did some of the follow-up work on the monkeypox outbreak associated with pet prairie dogs that occurred in 2003. Working with other epidemiologists at CDC was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I still keep in touch with colleagues there.  

Alice and her family in Tokyo, Japan

Buddhist Temple in Tokyo, Japan

Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Mt. Fuji, Japan, Alice climbed this massive mountain in 2002

The three years we lived in Japan were one of the highlights of my Air Force career. The culture is fascinating and the people are incredibly gracious. Even in the Tokyo metropolitan area with a staggering 37 million people, you can find quiet, serene gardens with perfectly manicured plants and peaceful water features. Train stations, however, are another story. There it’s wall-to-wall people and the river of thousands of people flowing on and off the trains and up the escalators is quite a sight! Yet there is no pushing or disorder like you commonly see in other countries. The people are extremely polite and orderly. One of my favorite memories of Japan is eating Japanese barbecue, called “Yakiniku” with my husband and young son. In yakiniku restaurants, thinly sliced uncooked meat and vegetables are brought to your table, and you cook it yourself over a small charcoal grill that’s built into your table. The dipping sauce contained soy sauce, mirin, sugar and sesame oil—yum! It came with bowls of rice, or you could order bibimbap, which is a Korean dish with rice, cooked meat, egg, and vegetables. My son was too small to cook the meat himself, so I did it for him, and he could eat it faster than I could cook it. It’s a wonder I got to eat any of it myself I still make a version of yakiniku at home, usually when my son requests it. I think it’s his clearest and favorite memory of Japan. We also visited Kyoto, which was the imperial capital of Japan for 1,000 years, to see the beautiful temples and gardens. Finally, I could not leave Japan without visiting Hiroshima. The single surviving structure, called the Genbaku dome, stands as a sobering reminder of the Atomic Bomb, but it is surrounded by a beautiful and thriving city.

Hindu Temple in Singapore

Singapore is an ultra-modern island city-state that has a rich cultural diversity. British, Chinese, Indian, Malay influences are evident everywhere! Signs are printed in English, Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay, particularly in and around public transit. It’s a scrupulously clean city, and super easy to navigate. Most people don’t have cars but walk or travel by the efficient train system. In the midst of modern skyscrapers, you might see an elaborate Hindu temple and detect the aroma of curry in the air. Walk a little further, and you might hear the Muslim call to prayer near a Malay mosque. What I loved most about Singapore, though, was THE FOOD! Unlike in many countries where the local food sold by street vendors might be unsafe to eat, the public health authorities in Singapore strictly regulate the vendors, called “hawkers” and you can feel confident eating anywhere. You could begin the day in Little India and sample dosa (sort of like a pancake stuffed with seasoned potatoes and other vegetables) for breakfast; later on, stop for a cup of “pulled tea” in the Kampong Glam neighborhood, and finally, dine on Hainanese Chicken, the national dish of Singapore, for dinner in Chinatown. Each ethnic neighborhood has its own sights, sounds, aromas, and shopping. It’s like visit multiple countries in Asia all in the same day!

I went to Seoul on a shopping trip with friends. Seoul is the shopping capital of South Korea! Just about anything you can think of can be found there in large outdoor markets filled with vendors. You can also have clothes custom made. I had a dress, a skirt, and blazer made while I was there. We also took one day to visit the Demilitarized Zone, which is a 2.5 mile buffer of land between North Korea and South Korea and contains a meeting place where discussions between the two countries’ leaders take place periodically. It’s somewhat alarming to look across the DMZ through binoculars and see North Korean soldiers standing on guard and watching the border. We also traveled underground through tunnels that are thought to have been dug by North Korean soldiers for possible invasion into Seoul.

Goats in Mindanao Village, Philippines

The Republic of the Philippines is actually an archipelago or group of many islands that make up the country. I traveled to 4 of these islands—Mindanao and Basilan in the south; centrally located Cebu, and the large northern island where the capital city of Manila is located. Each of these areas was very different with respect to socioeconomics, industry, culture and religion. The southern islands are very rural, with few paved roads. There were many outdoor markets selling fish, rice, and vegetables. I lived in the region for about 4 months while I was on military duty there. I became friends with another veterinarian who was serving in the Philippine Army, and she taught me how to cook pancit, a Filipino noodle dish. Some of the treasures I brought home with me from the Philippines are some beautiful pearl earrings, a carved mahogany chest inlaid with mother of pearl, and colorful woven textiles which are a specialty of the craftsmen in Mindanao. Although the country is predominately Catholic, there is a prominent Muslim presence in the southern islands. Cebu is much more developed and urban, and is a major tourist destination due to its beautiful beaches. Manila is a major metropolitan area, with a diverse population and many restaurants, but I love the traditional food of the Philippines, like pancit, chicken adobo, and lumpia prepared in small mom & pop shops. The Philippines is a fascinating country with an interesting history and culture!

My family and I took one trip to Australia when we were living in Japan, figuring we were closer than we’d ever be again to that continent. We wanted it to be quintessential Australia—Koala bears, kangaroos, crocodiles, Tropical Rain Forest, and the Great Barrier Reef. All this can be found in Tropical North Queensland. We stayed in a hotel near the beach at Cairns. The water and beaches are spectacular. Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed. We visited in November, but that’s nearly summer time there! We took a night tour of the zoo, which was really cool. We were each given flashlights and at one point we were standing over the crocodile pit. All you could see of these creatures was their eyes when the light reflected in them. Then we turned our flashlights out and listened as the zookeeper threw food into the pit and the crocs thrashed around after it—very creepy and thrilling! The tour ended in an area where we were able to feed kangaroos a kind of campfire bread. I was surprised how small the animals were. We also took a day tour of the Great Barrier Reef. The surf was rough on the trip out to the reef, but once we arrived and transferred to a giant pontoon-like platform, we spent the day snorkeling, learning about the sea life that called the reef home, and took a submersible down under the water to see the coral reef up close. It was a wonderful trip!

On May 24, 2016, Alice had the amazing opportunity to fly with the crew of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, an American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-life helicopter. It is used for troop movement, artillery placement, and battlefield resupply.

Here is more information about this helicopter:

Boeing CH-47 Chinook -

Boeing CH-47 Chinook -

Boeing CH-47 Chinook Helicopter History Site -

Boeing CH-47 Chinook YouTube -

Links of Interest:

US Air Force -

The University of North Carolina Greensboro -

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University -

WHO/Epidemiology -

Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas -

San Angelo, Texas -

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service -

City of Atlanta, Georgia - -

Japan - Lonely Planet -

Tokyo City Guide -

Kyoto Official Travel Guide -

The City of Hiroshima -

Visit Singapore -

Singapore - Lonely Planet - - Official Site of the Republic of Korea -

South Korea - Lonely Planet -

Visit Seoul - The Official Travel Guide to Seoul -

Philippines - Lonely Planet -

Philippine Department of Tourism -

Manila - Lonely Planet -

Visit Australia Travel and Tour Information - -

Cairns and Great Barrier Reef's Official Tourism Site -

Great Barrier Reef - Australia's Great Natural Wonder -

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