The First Air Force Dietitians

Excerpted from 50 Years of Air Fore Dietetics 1949 - 1999

Although the US Air Force was established in 1947, the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) was not established until 1949. Effective 1 July 1949 thirty-eight dietitians on active duty in the United States Army Women's Medical Specialist Corps (WMSC)* were transferred at their own request to the WMSC of the United States Air Force**.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of AFDA, we are proud to recognize three current members who were among those 38 US Army dietitians*** who became the first AF dietitians by virtue of their interservice transfer in mid-1949 and two current members who were the first dietitians commissioned directly from civilian life into the AF just months later in early 1950.

Transfers from the US Army:
Col Frances G. Ballentine (1Lt Gasson in 1949) retired in 1970 after an illustrious career as Associate Chief for Nutrition and Dietetics, Deputy Chief of the Biomedical Sciences Corps, and Chief, Biomedical Sciences Corps.

Col Virginia N. Brice (Capt Brice in 1949) transferred back to the Army in 1951 and retired in 1970 having risen to the top of her branch of service as Assistant Chief of the Army Medical Specialist Corps and the Army's Chief Dietitian.

Maj Julia Lobel (Capt Skellchock in 1949) served on AF active duty 1949 - 1955 and in the USAFR until 1959. Her last assignment was in the Surgeon General's Office, HQ USAF, Washington D.C.

Reported to AF active duty in March 1950:
Col Filomena R. (Fusco) Manor commissioned in Jan 1950 and retired in 1983. Career highlights include service as Associate Chief for Nutrition and Dietetics for 10 years; founder of the USAF Dietetic Internship and service as its Director for 12 years; and development of the cooked therapeutic inflight meal (CTIM) system for the C-9 and C-141 aeromedical evacuation during the Viet-Nam era.

Capt Jean (Trainum Smith) McKay commissioned in Feb 1950 and served on active duty from March 1950 - Sept 1953 and from July 1956 to June 1961. Career highlights include serving in the Office of the Surgeon General when Col Audrey Underkoffler was Chief, MSpC; and a TDY assignment to Cape Canaveral in 1961 for the first US manned space flight.

We recognize the courage and adventurous spirit of the 38 original AF dietitians, especially the three listed previously, who voluntarily left the established Army system for the uncharted territory of the AFMS and the first two dietitians commissioned directly from civilian life into the AF. We salute all five of these pioneering women as role models and mentors who set lofty standards for professionalism and officership that today's AF dietitians continue to uphold and advance. We are proud to be in their company as they continue to enrich our lives and our organization by their membership in RAFDA. We sincerely appreciate their past service and continued support of today's Air Force dietitians as colleagues in AFDA.


*Public Law 80-36 signed by Pres. Truman created the Women's Medical Specialist Corps in the US Army in 1947.

**The National Security Act of 1947 established the USAF as a separate service. The USAF WMSC created in 1949 by the USAF (General Orders No. 35) included three health care specialties: dietitians, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. In 1955 Public Law 294 authorized commissioning of qualified men (to ease manpower shortages) into the three specialties and the USAF WMSC was renamed the Medical Specialist Corps (MSpC). In 1965 personnel of the USAF MSpC were transferred to the newly established Biomedical Sciences Corps (BSC), composed of 13 (later 18) Health Care Specialties. The BSC was created by AF directive in 1965, not by Public Law. Thus, there is no Biomedical Sciences Corps in the US Army or the US Navy. US Army dietitians serve in the Army Medical Specialist Corps (formerly, AMSC; now SP). US Navy dietitians serve in the Navy Medical Service Corps (MSC).

***Complete list in 50 Years of Air Force Dietetics history book, pgs 4-5

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