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    1st SOFSS Air Commando overcomes surgery complications

    1st SOFSS Air Commando overcomes surgery complications

    Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Benenhaley, section chief of readiness and plans...... read more read more



    Story by Senior Airman Blake Wiles 

    1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

    Among all of the trying, crazy and unprecedented times of 2020, one Air Commando stayed resilient through surgery complications and came back to life (literally).
    “About an hour and a half in, my blood pressure dropped and I died on the table for less than two minutes,” she said. “My medical team had to resuscitate me.”
    U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Benenhaley, section chief of readiness and plans with the 1st Special Operations Force Support Squadron, went in for a breast reduction surgery at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in early March 2020.
    “My heart had enlarged in the surgery, I had pneumothorax, which is a collapsed lung,” said Benenhaley. “They had to put a chest tube in there to inflate my lung.”
    To add to the deficit, Eglin’s medical professionals also found a 5.2 centimeter tumor on Benenhaley’s left ovary, along with her appendix being inflamed. Not knowing if she had cancer or not is what terrified Benenhaley the most, but she had faith in Eglin’s medical team.
    “At Eglin they have a phenomenal team,” said Benenhaley.
    Coincidentally, Benenhaley’s squadron superintendent also had surgery the same day as her.
    “We have a pretty good relationship, so it’s actually funny we had surgery on the same day” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Monroe James, the superintendent of the 1st SOFSS. “We ran into each other at Eglin and yelled encouragement to each other.”
    As the superintendent of the 1st SOFSS, James oversees approximately 700 military and civilian personnel in the squadron, who provide commander's support, military personnel services and civilian personnel services for all units residing on Hurlburt Field.
    “Benenhaley is a superstar, I can always rely on her, she always has a good attitude and is looking for opportunities to take care of her Airmen,” said James. “She is one of the go-to people in our squadron.”
    After her surgery, Benenhaley required multiple follow up medical appointments but many of them were cancelled due to COVID-19. It was tough to stay positive through all of the hard times, but she accredits her leadership team by allowing her to have time off to recover.
    “Years ago, I had to spend a week in the hospital and my leadership did the same thing for me,” said James. “It meant a lot to me, it made me feel like a person and not just a number. So when it was my turn to be in that situation I was going to make sure she was taken care of.”
    Benenhaley’s leadership team worked with Eglin’s medical professionals extend her leave, so she didn’t need to come to work when she wasn’t ready.
    “Honestly, the feeling of knowing your bosses care about you,” said Benenhaley. “I really can’t put it into words how happy I was.”
    With everything happening so fast, Benenhaley felt like she had been hit by a train. Her leadership allowing time to recover truly changed her outlook on the situation.
    “They just alleviated a lot, so that I wasn’t pressured to go to work when I wasn’t ready,” said Benenhaley. “They kept my family and I laughing, which made my experience so much better. We were able to take time, laugh it off and enjoy our time together.”
    The 1st SOFSS leadership’s motivation and support transcended Benenhaley into being motivated to care about her Airmen even more and motivate them.
    “I wanted to continue to be positive and let my Airmen see that no matter how many obstacles you have, you are in charge of your career,” said Benenhaley. “Sometimes the difference is getting out there and getting to know your Airmen. Asking simple questions about their family can make a huge difference.”
    After all of the madness, Benenhaley is fully recovered and working as the unit deployment manager for the 1st SOFSS. As the UDM, she ensures her squadron is equipped and trained to deploy personnel.
    “I know that if I did not have good leadership, I would have gotten out of the Air Force,” said Benenhaley. “I would’ve pursued a different career path and it wouldn’t have been right for me or my family.”
    Even though Benenhaley went through many hardships, her resilience and her leadership helped persevere through the dark times.
    “In the Air Force, we talk about resiliency a lot, but her story is resiliency in a nutshell,” said James. “She went through something really tough and fought through it.”



    Date Taken: 04.23.2021
    Date Posted: 04.27.2021 16:20
    Story ID: 394630
    Location: HURLBURT FIELD, FL, US 
    Hometown: CLEVELAND, TN, US

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