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Barnestormer Turns Tragedy into Hope, Excels In Career

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Camille Lienau
  • 104th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- One of Barnes newest members Master Sgt. Erica Griffinking exemplifies our Barnestormer leader attributes and goes above and beyond displaying perseverance, integrity, courage and initiative. She is the only dental assistant in the 104th Medical Group and provides the highest quality dental care to service members. In addition to her work at the 104th, she supports the military by volunteering with the suicide prevention hotline and works at the 102nd Intelligence Wing in Airman and Family Readiness.

GriffinKing recently transferred to Barnes from the 102nd Intelligence Wing and provides the highest quality dental care to service members and civilians alike. Without a dental assessment from her, Barnestormers would be unable to deploy and maintain mission readiness.

“GriffinKing runs the dental clinic,” said Maj. Brian Craven, 104th MDG Dentist. “Prior to her arrival there were no dental technicians at Barnes, so she came in and essentially had to start fresh. She had everything up and running very quickly, and it was a relief to have someone like her helping out. She has been super helpful and a wonderful addition to our office,” he said.

The roles of a dental assistant in the Air Force vary, said GriffingKing. Their responsibilities range from doing chair-side hands on dental assisting and taking x-rays of members to working in disinfection centers sterilizing the equipment and instruments used during procedures. They also work to schedule appointments and update dental records, ensuring the base population is always worldwide-qualified. GriffinKing has also deployed several times providing invaluable dental care to those in developing nations.

“I have had the honor of going on several Innovative Readiness Training missions where I was able to give populations that would otherwise never see a dentist the time and dental care they desperately needed free of charge,” said GriffinKing. “These people have always been so incredibly grateful that we were able to help them achieve better health, better self-esteem and take away the pain they may have had from not being able to afford dental care: I have greatly enjoyed doing pediatrics as well. Working with children has always been my favorite and most precious memory,” she said.

Outside of her drill weekends at Barnes, GriffenKing is a mother to four children and works as a civilian for the family readiness office at the 102 IW. As a mother she helps set an example for her son who following in her footsteps joined the military as well.

“My son actually joined the military because of me, he wanted to be like his mom. When he was 17 he did delayed enlistment, joining the military was all he wanted to do,” said GriffinKing. “He actually got out of the military because he attempted suicide which is why he was separated. My son was stationed in Germany, when he attempted.”

Her son’s attempted suicide and struggles with his mental health are what inspired Griffinking to start her work with the suicide prevention hotline.

“I started working for the suicide hotline because of my son,” she said. “There's such a stigma with talking about mental health in the military: A lot of people have come to believe that if they try to get help with it they will get kicked out, and then they end up in the position that my kid was in. I wanted to find a way to advocate for those people and get them the help they need.” 

GriffinKing shared that her son is doing better now and she hopes to continue doing all she can to help with suicide prevention in the military. Her level of professionalism in her work as a dental assistant at Barnes and her perseverance in turning a tragedy into a moment of hope are just a few reasons why GriffinKing is wonderful example of Barnestormer leader.

“Being in the military, being in a medical profession, being a teacher to my four kids, volunteering, it is all a lot of work. But it is work that I am honored to be doing.”