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Winslow Nichols Leadership Award winner prepares for future as US Army combat medic

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | May 29, 2024 12:00 AM

Flathead High School senior Chloe Anderson is preparing to test her limits as she embarks on the path to becoming a combat medic in the U.S. Army.

She leaves for Fort Sill in Oklahoma for basic training on June 16.

“I’m excited and nervous,” Anderson said during an interview at the high school. “It’s such a weird thought to think that it’s literally happening so soon. It’s one of those things where you know it’s coming but it kind of feels like it’s a dream.”

Anderson, a Winslow Nichols Leadership Award recipient, enlisted in the Army to pay for college to become a physical therapist, a career she spoke passionately about.

The award, sponsored by Logan Health in collaboration with the Daily Inter Lake, recognizes the academic achievement and community involvement of high school students who contribute to improving the lives of others.

“To me a good leader is someone who understands what needs to be done and can teach others and guide them on how it has to be done in order for it to work well,” Anderson said.

After she completes about 10 weeks of basic training in Oklahoma she heads to Fort Sam in Texas for 17 weeks of training in her military occupation and will fulfill a four-year contract. Once she completes the contract, she can consider extending it or reenlisting as a physical therapist if the job is available. If she goes to college to become a physical therapist on the G.I. Bill, she would like to use her military experience to treat veteran patients.

“She is a leader as she has followed her heart,” said Flathead biomedical science teacher Linzi Napier in her letter nominating Anderson for the Winslow Nichols Leadership Award. “Her family is known to be brave and follow their passions and she is doing the same. She is not afraid to do something different than her peers. While following her own journey, she lifts others up around her and is well-loved by everyone around her. She leads in a way that is difficult to teach. A style that can lift up anyone in the room.” 

Anderson’s sister, Veyda, received the award last year.

She follows the path of grandfathers and uncles in her family who served in the Army and Navy. Anderson said she chose the Army because she could reserve a job before being sworn in. 

“And water is not my best friend … ” she said.

Before leaving for basic training she plans to visit extended family in Colorado, including her paternal grandfather, to say goodbye. 

“I think this is like the first or second time that both sides of the family have been able to come together,” she said.

In her matter-of-fact way of speaking, Anderson noted that “with the way the world is going” in the Middle East and Ukraine she won’t be surprised to be deployed overseas.

“And either I go there and come back with a better understanding of what men go through over there, or I end up dying serving my country, which I’m fine with because that’s where I feel like God had called me to go,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing with that.”

In the meantime, she’s been preparing for basic training, especially running. She said cardio is a challenge for her. Her goal is to shave her time on a two-mile run to 18 minutes 54 seconds by the time she is scheduled for the military test. Success may give her the impetus to dash across the stage at graduation on May 31.

“Oh, graduation is going to be awkward,” she groaned. “I don’t want to walk on the stage.”

Yet, she has a lot to be proud of in celebrating graduation. Napier said Anderson has shown initiative and the drive to challenge herself, “not to impress others but to get personal growth.”

“She works very hard in school as she has chosen challenging courses. Her work ethic is impressive as she puts in great effort in everything she does. Although learning does not

come easily for her, she is willing to put in the work to reach her academic goals,” Napier said.

During high school, Anderson has taken biomedical classes, been involved in HOSA — Future Health Professionals activities and will complete an internship at Stillwater Spine and Sports Center in Kalispell that saw her shadow chiropractors and physical therapists. The internship was arranged through Kalispell Public Schools’ work-based learning program.

Anderson became interested in learning more about physical therapy during her sophomore year. 

“I find the human anatomy very interesting,” she said.

She is not certain where that interest stems from but said her father was a firefighter emergency medical technician.

“I’ve just always kind of been a nerd that way,” she said with a laugh, recalling her recent purchase of a vintage book.

Bringing out her phone, she pulled up an image of Dr. Frank H. Netter’s “Atlas of Human Anatomy,” second edition. 

“I am so happy about it,” she said, smiling. “It’s beautiful.”

She said it was one of the books Stillwater staff will grab to visually show patients what is wrong and what muscle or muscles to focus on during exercise/movement — the mind-muscle connection Anderson said versus mindlessly going through the motions.

She also job-shadowed an occupational therapist (OT).

“When I did shadow the OT it was really cool but [was] too fine motor skills for me. I like seeing people come in with an obvious issue and then I like using deductive reasoning to figure out what’s going on and then fixing it … versus correcting habits,” she said referring to motor skills required for daily living.

As a physical therapist, she wants to diagnose and treat acute injuries to improve mobility and reduce pain in people while educating them about what is happening anatomy-wise. 

“I want to teach people and educate them on why this [pain] is happening,” she said, using lower back pain as an example. “We’d go in and figure out which muscles are affecting it and we would train them how to fix that posture or strengthen the muscles that are weak.”

“It’s so exciting to me,” she said.

As part of the Winslow Nichols Award, honorees choose a school club or activity to receive a $250 donation. Anderson plans to donate the money to the She-Ra Book Club, which she was a member of for two years. The club promotes a love for reading by pairing up with elementary school reading buddies.

LEARN MORE

Winslow Nichols Award nomination criteria:

Eligibility: High school students in Flathead, Lake or Lincoln counties.

Academics: Students who value their education by exhibiting academic responsibility; preferably have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Character: Students who display integrity, compassion, service and excellence.

Citizenship: Students who nurture healthy communities through community service, volunteerism or other contributions to their community and/or school.

Leadership: Students who take initiative and are role models for others.

Forms are available at www.logan.org/tomorrowsleaders.

Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.