The Lived Experience of Chief Nurses in Military Operations Other Than War -- M. Turner

Fundamental Structure of the Experience
- Arriving
-- Initial arrangements

Living arrangements were an initial concern. For those who arrived at a site that was already operational the arrangements were not a problem. In one instance the accommodations were almost resort like in location and amenities. For those who arrived at sites where no preparations had been made the experience was considerably different. The teams ranged in size from four or five to several hundred troops. Finding accommodations was challenging but often it was just the beginning of a very complex task. Communication, transportation and privacy were just a few of the problems that surfaced. These issues had to be considered in the context of the bigger and more pressing issues of the mission itself.


This was family housing and we had to move all our nursing staff into these little tiny family housing units. The house in American standards would probably fit 3-4 people and we were putting like 12-15 nurses in there, on cots, you know, on the floor or whatever, and it was also 10 miles away from where the hospital was. We had no communications. So, the initial problem of getting there was trying to figure out where we were going to be, how we were going to get people back and forth to the hospital and it was a terrible logistics problem.


The first priority was to get everybody a place to sleep and that was a real problem because we had people all over. Initially, they put us in an officer's club/barracks at this place 10 miles down the road and we didn't even have the buses contracted to move people back and forth, we didn't have a car, and so initially we were all at this base 10 miles away and yet we were supposed to be up here starting to activate this hospital. So it was a logistical nightmare. We did contract some buses. Then there was a dining hall where everybody was going to eat, which again was 2 miles from where they were living. So, we had to get them on a bus, take them to the dining hall, feed them, and then get them out to the hospital. Then, once we were at the hospital, this hospital had no dining hall, the plan was to put a tent up and cook the food for the patients and not the staff. So, we had to have MRE's at lunchtime and then at supper we could be bused back down to that dining hall. So, just the idea of getting people a place to sleep, a place to eat, and how to get back and forth was our biggest problem and it took us a while to work that out.


Finally, got someplace to sleep but it was a real problem as far as one bathroom was outside, one in the house, and here you have 12-15 women living there trying to get to the bathroom. I mean, you don't even think of these little things.


Our team of four people including the commander, the administrator, and some loggies [logistics people] went down, two loggies, they had not made any arrangements for billeting for these 125 people, no arrangements, there were no arrangements... There were really minimal arrangements for where we were going to put the ATH or how much room we needed for an ATH .... So what we had to do was our group that was just coming together as a team, Just as we're coming together as a team, they decide that they're going to split us up and they can only find places so that we have to split in three different groups, two on one side of the canal and one on the other side of the canal, So the surgeon, anesthesia, the SGH, the commander,... the team that had to be closest to the hospital stayed on The ATH side of the canal. And then the most senior, this is how I decided, the most senior of the techs that I could trust the most and knew the best would stay in a converted ward in the Army Hospital. It was "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" revisited. It was unreal. And it was like one block away from the Red Light District, so that's why I couldn't have the youngsters in that environment. Then, I took the rest of us over to the base and we were in another dorm similar to the facility that we had in the old dorm that had to be renovated. But I had all the youngsters, the most young of the youngsters, inexperienced nurses and techs, young, challenging.


10 days here, we're out of this hole." And it really was... You know, we had bottled water, no showers, sleeping out under the stars, open pit latrines, MRE's, and so for the first 10 days it was pretty nasty in there.


The senior nurses were in a tent together and then the doctors were two doors down in another tent. And the other nurses and technicians were actually like three rows over in another tent, separated from us, which they liked very well because we couldn't keep an eye on them.


But by the time we got there, they knew what was going on and they had everything fixed for us. Like I said, I went right to my room, I had no problems or anything like that.


And when I got there,..they had rented... an ocean liner And people were living on the boat... it used to be one of the luxury liners. .. there was a little gym there. And I lived there first before I moved into billeting which was they were extremely small accommodations. I can remember having a candle when I first got there and the people that cleaned my room, took it out.. Without permission. I wasn't allowed to have that. And there was only one electric outlet So I had to use my curling iron someplace else and I ironed down the hall. And.. I was really feeling closed in. I could never have been in the navy. But we lived on the ship for two weeks before I got into billeting.