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Air Force Veteran and Senior Operational Innovation Specialist Bryce Johnson Keeps One Foot in Aviation and Military World

Published: Nov. 3, 2023

Hitting the ground running and learning things on the fly are tasks that don’t scare Bryce Johnson.

Prior to joining Methodist in March 2020, Johnson had limited knowledge about health care. But starting his new position with Operational Innovation (OI) during the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to quickly learn the most efficient ways to help people receive what they need to do their jobs.

Absorbing new information wasn’t new for Johnson, as he served over 11 years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. He spent the majority of his time remotely piloting MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones on overseas missions. Johnson ended his time as an instructor pilot at Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas.

After moving seven times over the course of 11 years, including deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, Johnson left active service in early 2020 and moved with his wife and children to her home state of Nebraska. 

Bryce Johnson and wife Kim
Bryce Johnson and his wife Kim after his final flight of the MQ-1 Predator in 2018.

But the Air Force Academy graduate didn’t abandon his itch for serving. In February 2020, Johnson joined the 124th Attack Squadron of the Iowa Air National Guard to keep one foot in aviation while working Monday through Friday for OI at Methodist.

Johnson feels fortunate to still be involved with national defense, even if it’s on a much smaller scale than it was for many years of his life.

“It’s been really good to not abandon that part of my story and personality,” he said. “And it’s also been good to be able to share that with my family.”


Staying Involved

Three to four days a month during one long weekend, Johnson flies the MQ-9. He completes missions overseas with the drone while he sits in a ground control station in Des Moines. 

“It’s been a very interesting experience,” Johnson said. “I like the part-time nature of it because I get all of the advantages of being in the military and none of the disadvantages.” 

Bryce Johnson and MQ-9
Bryce Johnson with his family in front of the MQ-9 Reaper.

During a typical weekend, Johnson flies multiple two-hour mission times supporting U.S. operations around the world. The majority of flights are strictly surveillance, but his plane is equipped with four missiles and two bombs if extra assistance is necessary to attack America’s enemies. Johnson noted that it’s not very common that he has to think about using those weapons, but similar planes were called to assist during the battle against ISIS from 2015 to 2017.

When he’s not flying a mission, Johnson uses simulators to practice scenarios that might require emergency procedures, and he completes a variety of administrative tasks. 

Johnson believes his involvement with the Guard allows him to apply some best practices in aviation to health care. He’s always been interested in efficiency and further developed that skill during his Air Force career. And through his work with OI, Johnson focuses on efficiency at Methodist.


Connecting With Members

Johnson is also an active member of Methodist’s Military Employee Resource Group (MERG). As a second-generation Air Force pilot from a military family, Johnson likes connecting with Methodist employees who are currently serving or are veterans and sharing stories of their experiences. 

He also enjoys visiting Offutt Air Force Base and discussing Methodist’s employment opportunities with military members and their families.

“I’m excited to see how we can recruit and retain more military members and make the ability to live in both worlds even easier,” he said.


Recent Recognition

In August, Johnson was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Air National Guard. Squadron members, family and friends, including Maureen Holstein, Methodist’s director of Operational Innovation, attended the pinning ceremony.

Bryce Johnson pinning
Bryce Johnson being pinned to lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Air National Guard.

“It was really nice to be able to celebrate this both with my squadron, my family and with Methodist,” Johnson said. “Because I know that there are plenty of employers out there that wouldn’t provide me with nearly the same amount of flexibility that Methodist has in being able to continue to serve the country and do my day-to-day continuous improvement work.”

About the Author

Anthony Robinson, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, joined the marketing team after spending over five years as a college athletics public relations professional. He enjoys being able to use his writing ability to tell compelling stories that embody The Meaning of Care

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