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From Ukrainian orphanage to AFMS Airman

  • Published
  • By Kevin M. Hymel
  • Air Force Medical Service History Office
Airmen across the Air Force Medical Service work hard to provide care to their patients and ensure the medical readiness of their fellow Airmen. With diverse backgrounds and varied life experiences, each Airman plays an important role in Air Force Medicine. This is the story of one impressive Airman.

Senior Airman Yana Ingram enjoys helping people. As a pharmacy technician for the 97th Medical Group at Altus Air Force Base, she spends her days filling prescriptions for active duty service members, their dependents, and retirees. Her patients might find it hard to believe this dedicated Airman came to the service from an orphanage almost 6,000 miles away.

Yana grew up in Ukraine and never knew her father. Her mother’s situation there forced Ingram to be placed in an orphanage as a kindergartener. Life in the orphanage was austere and regimented. Ingram shared a room with 12 other girls. After classes, she and the other children would prepare meals and, after dinner, clean the kitchen. Before bedtime, the children were allowed to play outside.

“It was good at the time,” she recalled. “We had food, we always had stuff to do with no cares in the world.”

When Yana was 12, she met Whitney Ingram, an American on a mission trip. Whitney told her parents about the young orphan looking for a home. In 2005, after a year of writing back and forth, the Ingrams flew to Ukraine and adopted Yana.

Life in the United States was a shock for Ingram. The local grocery store amazed her. Raised on pickled, boiled and fresh food, she found American meals greasy and too heavily seasoned. Language was a barrier. In the orphanage, Ingram had learned some English, like the days of the week. But once in the U.S., she had to communicate through hand gestures.

“I was like a kid trying to learn to talk all over again,” she said.

After high school, Ingram attended Pike’s Peak Community College in Colorado and lived with her aunt and uncle, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant. He told her the Air Force was a great experience and would pay for college. Encouraged by his advice, Ingram joined the Air Force in 2014.

Ingram found the regimented atmosphere of Basic Military Training similar to the Ukrainian orphanage. Unlike other recruits who may have not been unaccustomed to a regimented lifestyle, Ingram felt at home.

After attending technical training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Ingram served at RAF Lakenheath, England. Ingram set the baseline standard for the new inpatient schedule, the training timeline, and workload tasks. She also developed a guide for compliance inspectors. Her work at RAF Lakenheath earned her Airman of the Quarter for her squadron.

Her supervisor, Master Sgt. Kristine Butler, took notice of her leadership potential and positive attitude from day one.

“She took charge of the in-patient pharmacy,” said Butler. “She made that pharmacy a smooth-running shop,” added Harris.

Ingram aspires to earn a nursing degree and an Air Force commission to become a nurse anesthesiologist. Her fellow Airmen and supervisors have encouraged her along the way.

“I am more confident at work and at being in charge,” Ingram said of her own development. “I am always looking for ways I can improve and for better ways to run things.”

While Ingram survived the orphanage alone, she now thrives with two families; the Ingrams and Air Force Medicine.