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Police Week 2020: Defender Busch Beats the Odds

Airman Shannon Busch stands holding an award. (Courtesy Photo)

Airman Shannon Busch stands holding an award. (Courtesy Photo)

Airman Shannon Busch stands holding an award. (Courtesy Photo)

Airman Shannon Busch poses for a photo following graduation from Air Force Basic Military Training. (Courtesy Photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --

“I’ve always wanted to join the military since I was 8 years old,” said Airman Shannon Busch. “On the TV, I watched the World Trade Centers fall and in that moment, I knew I wanted to serve my country.”

Hailing from Sugarloaf, Penn., Busch started Air Force Basic Military Training May 20, 2019 and at graduation on July 19, 2019, she was all set to start a promising career as a Security Forces Defender. But an accident during technical training at the 343rd Training Squadron put her childhood dreams on the line.

On Aug. 7, 2019, Busch and her fellow wingman at the Security Forces Academy were doing intense physical training consisting of running and sprinting. During the work out, she began to feel pain in her left leg. 

“It didn’t feel that bad at first, but after a while, it got so bad that I was crying because it felt like someone just locked up my leg and it wouldn’t move,” she said.

She went to the doctor and learned that she had sustained a fracture of the femoral neck. In short, this was a hip fracture. The doctors told her it would take anywhere from one to two years to heal.

“I thought my whole career in the Air Force was over,” she said. “They were telling me my time in the Air Force was done, and if somehow I did have the chance to stay in, there would be no way it would be Security Forces.”  

That news was difficult for Busch to come to grips with. The thought of not becoming a Defender or continuing to wear the uniform broke her heart, she said. Before joining the Air Force, she was employed at a steel company in Hazleton, Penn., as a factory worker. She thought about going back, but she knew it wouldn’t fulfil her like being an Airman does.

“When I was in the hospital I spent most nights awake thinking that my career was over, thinking that this was it for me,” she said. “But also, in my heart, I knew it wasn’t and I knew for a fact that no one was going to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I already told myself that I would get back up and continue training and stay in the Air Force. I just had to fight for it.” 

She was in the hospital for five days. During that time, the doctors performed surgery to insert a metal rod in her leg that she will have for the rest of her life. After that, she was transferred to a rehabilitation facility for two weeks. When she was released, she went back to her dorm room. For the next five-and-a-half months, she had physical therapy appointments three days a week, three times each day.

She also spent that time volunteering. When new teams would come over from BMT each week to start technical training, she mentored them as a Red Rope, making sure they knew the rules and standards they needed to uphold. Red Ropes must be selected and complete numerous professional development and leadership courses. She also helped her superiors set up rooms, copy paperwork, and do any other tasks they needed to contribute to the mission in whatever way she was able. 

Six months after she was injured, Busch did what doctors predicted would be impossible and walked again. Later, she got a phone call from Technical Sgt. Takiah Chrisenson said she was welcomed back to the Security Forces Academy to complete her training to become military police, to be an Air Force Defender. 

“A lot of factors go into retaining an Airman as a Defender. Their physical and mental capabilities are top priority, but what was unique about Airman Busch is she had an unwavering drive and ambition to be a Defender,” said Chrisenson, a Military Training Leader at the 343rd TRS. “I don’t see many with her superior Can Do attitude and coupled with her improved medical condition, she is the ideal Airman to earn the badge and beret of a Defender.”

Busch graduated from the Security Forces Academy Friday, May 8 on the eve of the first Police Week week of the new decade and is currently awaiting orders to go to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. 

“I’m extremely excited. I’ve never been west before,” she said. “I love exploring new places and I am super outdoorsy.” 

She said she still has some soreness and pain, but it is not unmanageable. She hopes that over the course of her career, she will continue to grow as an Airman and become a better leader. She is excited to deploy and is also interested in returning to the Gateway Wing to become a military working dog handler through the 341st Training Squadron. 

“I want to be a cop that helps others and makes this country and community feel safe,” she said. “I try to be a friend to all and always have one hand back to help lift up others as I also have one forward to move up in my career.”

Learn more about the 343rd TRS on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/343SFAcademy/.