Long Knife Soldier dusts off medical skills
June 30, 2008
CONVOY SUPPORT CENTER SCANIA, Iraq - A military intelligence officer finally got to work where her heart is - in the medical community.
After originally enlisting to become a combat medic in the Army Reserves nine years ago, 1st Lt. Khara Keegan, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where she graduated and received her commission in the Military Intelligence Corps.
"I like my current job a lot, but the medical profession is where my heart is," said the 26-year-old security officer.
Keegan, currently serving with 4th "Long Knife" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was reunited with her passion for providing medical care only four days after arriving in Iraq. She encountered a two-year-old Iraqi boy at the Convoy Support Center Scania's Smith Gate Burn Clinic who was badly burned on both legs, stomach and left arm.
"I didn't want to be emotional, but I could tell the boy was in a lot of pain," Keegan recalled. "I cleaned off his dead skin and applied ointment and a wrap for protection, while his parents were holding him and consoling him."
Amazingly, after only that initial treatment at the base's burn clinic, the little boy was smiling and holding hands with Keegan.
"He will need treatment for weeks," Keegan explained. "The patients here are authorized to have their bandages changed and re-dressed three times per week."
Keegan, along with approximately 700 troops of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, are taking over operations at the convoy support center. The brigade headquarters is located at Contingency Operating Base Adder in Tallil Air Base, approximately 200 miles south of Scania.
The burn clinic's current noncommissioned officer in-charge is hopeful the Long Knife Brigade Soldiers will continue what the 1st "Strike Hold" Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division started.
"I didn't know what the new unit was going to do," said Sgt. Joe Burzeski, a combat medic assigned to the Strike Hold Brigade. "I'm seeing the 1st Cav. Soldiers come in and volunteer on their down time, so I can go home at peace knowing this clinic will continue and prosper."
The burn clinic operates with mostly volunteer personnel and supplies that are shipped into Iraq from various hospitals in the U.S. Donations include zero-form dressing, four-by-four gauze and three-inch tape required to treat the burn patients.
Burzeski was one of the first medics assigned to the clinic when he first arrived more than a year ago. When he arrived here, the small staff worked inside a 20-foot shipping container with very few supplies. Today, the clinic accommodates approximately 40 patients per day inside the same structure.
"As soon as I heard about this place, I knew I had to help out," Keegan said. "Today I saw immediate results from my efforts; that's why I like the medical profession."
She plans to volunteer at the burn clinic as much as her primary mission allows.