On the verge of deploying as an Army Nurse

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    With just two years in the Army Nurse Corps, it's time to deploy! Nine months away sounds like a nice little break, right? Sometimes things happen when you least expect them, and reminders of why you do what you do come at the strangest times.

    Back in January I looked at my phone and realized that I'd missed a call -- it was from our ER chief, my boss's boss. Uh-oh. Now what? I listened to the voicemail and just about dropped the phone: it was the news that there may be a tasker (deployment assignment) floating around out there with my name on it.

    I immediately texted my head nurse (my Officer in Charge, OIC), figuring he'd have details. He replied that he didn't really want to say anything because he didn't have much information and thus didn't want to lie to me, but that the assistant deputy commander for nursing (DCN) needed to see me the next day. Eeek! Did I get any restful sleep that night? Nope!

    The next day (my day off, but who cares? This is exciting stuff!) I went to the hospital to meet with the assistant DCN. She smiled and told me that there was a tasker requiring a M5 (ER nurse), and that it looks like I'd be deploying for nine months to Afghanistan sometime in May or June. She asked if that sounded like something I could handle, and I said yes! Of course, I was so stunned at this news that I forgot to ask which unit I'd be going with, or exactly where I'd be going: you know, all those fine details. My OIC and I thought maybe it was with a certain Combat Support Hospital (CSH, pronounced "cash") that we knew was due to leave around then, but we really had no way of knowing.

    I emailed my assistant DCN the next day and asked if she had a point of contact for me so that I could ask some basic questions. This was really just me trying to figure out which unit I was deploying with, but I felt like an idiot saying, "I forgot to ask!" Haha. My little ruse worked, and I found that I would be deploying with a Forward Surgical Team (FST)! Oh my, this was a totally different ballgame than a CSH!

    When I first met with my fabulous recruiter back in 2010, she told me about CSHs and FSTs. I remember her describing a FST as a small, tight-knit unit of about 20 personnel. Coming from a freestanding, 15-bed ER that consistently displayed some of the best teamwork I've ever seen, this FST deal sounded perfect for me.

    When I first met with my OIC and told him how much I'd like to deploy with an FST, he said that it would be unlikely: deployments were diminishing, and FST positions were very sought after by people who outranked me. He knew I wanted to deploy, but thought it would be more likely that I'd go with a CSH.

    And it seemed that might be the case. Back in September I had been told that I had been selected to be PROFIS for a CSH out of Ft. Lewis, but that there were no imminent taskers. PROFIS is the Professional Filler System, the means by which the Army fills specialty positions with a deploying unit. So while this CSH did not need a full-time ER nurse, it would if it deployed, and I'd be that ER nurse. Great! So I had to go out to the range and qualify with the enormous M16, because there were no M9 ranges scheduled anytime soon. For anyone who has read my BOLC blog about our field training exercises (BOLC Week Six: I Would Trade My Firstborn for a Shower...), you know that I called my M16 "Large Marge" because the thing is almost as tall as me when I carry it with a sling. Not exactly a weapon with which I'm destined to be comfortable!

    To make matters worse, I'd gone to the ophthalmologist the day before to see if I was a candidate for laser eye surgery -- again. Yes, I had LASIK in 2007 or thereabouts, but my vision was getting blurry again. The ophthalmologist (nice guy) did an exam, then put a couple of drops in my eyes and said, "Head back out to the waiting area while we wait for those to work." OMG, he had just dilated my pupils! Great. And sure enough, my pupils were still enormous the next day at the range. Luckily I was favored with cloudy weather that was relatively cool for September in southeast Georgia. I shot a 29, and I was quite happy with that between the dilated pupils and the torrential rain that came down as I was taking my qualifying shots. Good times!

    So there I was, PROFIS and weapons-qualified, just waiting. And waiting. And ... nothing happened! Oh well, that was fine. I figured something would come up when I least expected it. And sure enough, just a few months later, the exciting news about the FST.

    And more exciting news: I will be meeting my team at the Army Trauma Training Center in Miami very soon! We will be there for some intense trauma training at a Level 1 in the city. It is going to be amazing! I feel like I have won the lottery in terms of deployment opportunities; when I said that to my OIC, he could only agree with me.

    I received some sobering news earlier this week that put some things in perspective for me. A close friend of mine who was an ER tech/paramedic at my old ER left me a heart-wrenching voicemail that he'd just gotten word that his brother, a 1LT out of Ft. Rucker, had just been killed in Afghanistan by an IED. Awful, awful news -- his brother had deployed only weeks earlier, and my friend and I were just talking about the awesome care package he had sent his brother. In any case, it brought home to me who I'm going there to care for: they could all be this soldier, this beloved brother of my very good friend. I realized once again that I am privileged to wear this uniform and to be charged with this sacred duty, and that is how I am approaching this deployment.
    Last edit by Pixie.RN on Apr 5, '16
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    Pixie.RN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, Emergency/Trauma Nurse, former CPT/66T (Army). Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her Android smartphone.

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  3. by   tnbutterfly
    How exciting for you!

    I am so proud of you and honored to know you. Thank you for serving your country.
  4. by   pedspnp
    God bless you. And condolences on the loss of a fellow soldier and friend. My son is there now as part of the 3rd ARB and my husband is there as a civilian with the government doing reclamation work . I pray for them everyday and I will add you too my list. As a mom I was bursting with pride the day my son left for Afghanistan. He clucked me on the chin and said don't worry about me I will be ok,did a little happy dance as he went to formation with his battles. He then turned and blew me a kiss . The last photo I took was of his back facing me, as a reminder that he has my back. Thank you for you service Godspeed and best wishes As Dr Seuss said oh the places you will go
  5. by   BerryHappy
    Oh my goodness! You are who I want to be when I grow up!!! What a great life story you have. Congratulations and keep the details coming!!!!

    Very sincerely, thank you for serving our country.
  6. by   Esme12
    I am so sorry for the loss of a fellow soldier. I thank you with all of my heart for your service.

    Godspeed Dear Lunah!
  7. by   motherof3sons
    So very sorry for the loss of a fellow soldier.... and I thank you that you are so willing to serve our country. Thank you in advance for caring for our wounded troops! God bless you with a safe journey!
  8. by   salvadordolly
    Thank you in advance for caring for our wounded troops! God bless you with a safe journey!
    Yes, this.
  9. by   iwantmore
    I am a fellow Army Nurse, who has deployed. I deployed to Iraq as a medic, prior to commissioning as an AN. I know that my chances for deploying now are slim, and envy you, but will pray for you. I come from a family full of pride, currently I have 2 brothers, 2 nephews, a niece, and a cousin, in the Army National Guard. Most of them have deployed twice. I also have a nephew that just reported to his first duty station in Japan, with the Marines. One of my baby brothers is in Afghanistan as a Platoon leader with an engineer company as we speak. So, I have the pride in my blood. I will continue to follow you on your journey and wish you the best.
  10. by   SoldierNurse22
    Best of luck to you, Lunah. Keep it Army Strong.
  11. by   KJM-RN
    Wow, very interesting. I know nothing about Army nursing, but you've got me quite intrigued. Sounds like you love what you do. Good Luck, thank you, and Congratulations!!!
  12. by   NutmeggeRN
    Wow! Congrats and Godspeed....we will all be thinking of you. Condolences on the loss of a friend/fellow soldier....
  13. by   marydc
    Congratulations! Best of luck and thank you for your service.
  14. by   cjcsoon2bnp
    Thank you for all that you and your colleagues do to serve our country. My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your team for your safe return home once your tour is complete.