Nearly 20 years ago, while enrolled as a College of Medicine student, Sean M. Hussey, MD ’97, never thought he’d find himself as a commander in the U.S. Navy, serving in a Middle Eastern desert halfway around the world. Embedded as Force Surgeon, U.S. Marine Corps Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force, to provide care for Marines and coalition forces in Operation Inherent Resolve. This blog is the last part to Dr. Hussey's blog series about his in-country experience.
As I stood outside our base camp waiting for the busses to pick us up on our last day in Kuwait, the weather turned ugly. Standing alongside my Marines and Sailors and staged with my travel bags and medical gear in an open field I was exposed to one final Kuwaiti sandstorm. As the wind picked up and the wall of sand came racing across the field, there was nothing for any of us to do except ensure our eye and face protection were secure and turn our bodies away from the oncoming sand. It was somewhat fitting that just hours before leaving the country to return home to our families we should have to endure another one of Kuwait’s meteorological treasures. However, the thought of being back home in California within 24 hours made standing in that field much more tolerable.
Our tour was now over and my medical team of nearly 100 personnel felt proud of the work we had accomplished. Fortunately the mission was not terribly kinetic and medical combat casualties were kept to a minimum. Our advances were made mostly in training and paving the way for future missions. Still, there were several medical evacuations of our Marines for broken bones, irregular heart rhythms, and mental health conditions and we worked diligently to make sure these troops arrived safely back to their home base safely. But we also worked hard to establish a training pipeline that focused on achieving competency in combat triage and treatment as well as collaborating with aeromedical evacuation assets in the region to move combat casualties from the point-of-injury to the nearest medical facility. One of the best things about working in the medical field while forward deployed is being able to work jointly with our sister services in the best interest of our troops. It was not uncommon for a Navy doctor to treat a Marine at the point of injury, hand off the care to an Army medical helicopter team to transport to an Army hospital, and then transport that patient back to the United States using an Air Force transport plane. One team, one fight.
During my twenty-hour trek back home to Camp Pendleton, on a multitude of busses and planes, I had time to reflect on my career as a Naval physician who has worked around the globe. I continue to believe that I am extremely fortunate to be able to work with some of the brightest and most courageous men and women on the planet. Combat medicine is such a unique experience, one that does not come naturally, and I thank the Ohio State University College of Medicine for giving me the life skills and the medical training to succeed in such a wonderful field.
As I arrived home and I stepped off the last bus and headed towards my awaiting family, I brushed off the sand from my uniform, gathered my bags, and stepped back into the life that had been left behind seven months earlier. The mission was complete.