The Lived Experience of Chief Nurses in Military Operations Other Than War -- M. Turner
Concerns for the welfare of the staff persisted throughout the deployment, they included safety, emotional well being and living conditions.
Some people started protesting and marching outside our gates. So we put camouflage netting up, all around the compound, as much as we could, so people couldn't see what we were doing inside. And then we had to start talking more about terrorist problems. That worried me and especially when we went back through the airport and they inspect you and there is all this security You realize then that this was unfamiliar. You have this terrorist threat because in the United States you don't have to go through that. And then, of course, I think while we were there one subway got bombed down in the city. So, you get in your mind, your thinking, it is not your most important thought, but you're thinking well this might be an obstacle that you're not expecting so we had to really start talking to our people about being careful and that the threat of terrorists was there. But we're Americans, supposed to be safe. And the one base where I was in that barracks, living in the officer's club, that was one of the ammunition bases, , and one of the things I was told was that they brought us in there thinking then that the terrorists wouldn't attack that base and that didn't make me feel real good. And, we tried...to tell our people this because I think, you know, Americans they kind of do their own thing and we were afraid that somehow they would put themselves at risk. And so then we told them that they couldn't walk around in their camouflage uniforms, we gave them parkas, and they could wear civilian clothes with parkas, but they really shouldn't be in their military uniforms running around town. Again, that was something unexpected. I guess that would be it. That we didn't know that was going to happen. And I was not comfortable. And they really checked and searched everybody when we came onto this base, where the munitions base was, and we were thinking, "Boy, I hope they don't decide to attack here at this clinic."
Am I willing... You know, if they die, is it my fault .... my chief would spend nights worrying about... If something happens to him, it's his fault because he put him there, and I said, "No it's not your fault," and he said, "But I picked him," and I said, "But you pick them based on the needs of the mission."
I tried not to... And I know a lot of people I talked to tried not to get emotionally connected to any of this. We just really got to the point .....you know the little girl has AIDS and she's probably going to die but you can't dwell on that. You can't let that.... we had nurses there and techs who wanted to adopt kids. They tried and their government would not agree to it, our government would not agree to it. There was no avenue to try to help.
My first shirt and I would always go and meet people at that boat.... the first week there, I wanted to go look at housing. And, the commander said "Well that's a waste of time." I said, "I need to know where my people live." So I would go through the housing area. Sometimes, I'd ride my bike and ride around. .... so even after work, when I was actually done with being out in the field, if you will, I'd come back, I'd get on my bike and go visit. And people would invite me to their houses.
And then it blew up in his hand. ... A number of my people really... they almost were fainting out there. It really shook them up. And I was concerned, "How are they are going to deal with it when the war hits and we're going to get..." ....I was imagining Vietnam in my mind. "How are they going to be able to deal with that if this one..." It was a very controlled injury. it's one half of a hand.
I wish I could have protected them better because I think a lot of them were really young, immature nurses, and they were probably away for the first time and came up against some very aggressive, very persuasive people who were pursuing them. Alcohol and the stress of being TDY... I'm not so sure that they were adequately prepared. They really weren't prepared at all. They had no lectures on what it would be like, what the migrants were like, some of the cultural things. I think some of that would have helped. They were such a demonstrative people, a very warm and friendly people. It really would have helped to have understood some of the situations. I think we could have been... a little bit more sensitive, ....what we would experience.
We had a lot of different problems. There was no alcohol, no shorts, no bathing suits. .... all of our nurses had bathing suits and the nurses from other countries had bathing suits but they particularly chose if they were going to sunbathe... They sunbathed nude. And they had blankets around these tents so you couldn't see anything. But you know how guys are. They can find a way. So we got into trouble. Several of the nurses got into trouble for wearing bathing suits.
And I thought "Well now the only thing they're doing is they're in their bathing suits, they're behind the ATH, nobody can see... You have to make a concerted effort to get behind, all the way behind where they were to see, and what were you doing back there anyway." I mean, yes, they needed some way to relax and that was one way that they could relax, after working all day or after working all night or after an incident would happen, and so I really thought nothing was wrong with that. They weren't getting into trouble. They weren't doing anything. They weren't walking around the compound in their bathing suits or anything, they always were fully clothed, and so I thought that was o.k. but our commander and all the other people didn't, so it was like a battle. And any way we won it, they pretty much just sort of left me alone. And I said, "Well, you know, I'm not really going to do anything to them about going out. They're there. They're protected. Nobody should be back there anyway. They're covered. And so what? They're not bothering anybody. So that's one of the little things. We have other things to worry about."