'Black Jack' physicians balance healthcare needs
October 18, 2013
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - As the only deployed physician's assistant with 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Capt. La Tasha Gray, must treat and care for hundreds of troops, a challenge she will not have to face alone while in Afghanistan.
Two doctors from different states attached to Black Jack will serve their tour with Gray as brigade health providers, helping maintain the brigade's medical fitness, sharing medical experience and building friendships.
Physicians, Maj. Abigail Lee, a dermatologist assigned to San Antonio Military Medical center (SAMMC), Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Capt. Kristen Koenig, a family practitioner assigned to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH), Fort Campbell, Ky., were attached to Black Jack towards the end of April, went through the brigades' Joint Readiness Training Center rotation in Fort Polk, La., in May and deployment in July.
Black Jack is currently deployed to Afghanistan to support retrograde operations of both service members in Afghanistan and their equipment.
Although they came from different Army posts and healthcare settings, both Lee and Koenig said their anticipations of the deployment with Black Jack were similar.
"It was no surprise I was deploying. The Army trains us well and I was ready for the new experiences," said Koenig, who hails from Ringoes, N.J.
"I knew I was on the list to deploy. I had deployed to Iraq and was excited about experiencing Afghanistan with 'Black Jack'," explained Lee, who hails from Milwaukee.
From the start, Koenig said she was graciously welcomed into the Black Jack family by her counterparts.
"The medics have welcomed me with their motivation and insightfulness," Koenig said.
Lee agreed, stating, "I have been truly overwhelmed by the support and performance of (Black Jack)."
Gray said Lee and Koenig is a welcomed edition to the brigade, and a needed source of experience and knowledge.
"It's great having them here. I love having medical doctors around to exchange ideas with and draw from their experiences on more difficult medical cases," Gray explained.
Both Lee and Koenig hope to share their knowledge and ensure sound health care is given to soldiers who need it.
"There is a potential opportunity to make a real difference while I'm here," stated Lee. "I am always excited to help heal soldiers."
Koenig said her experience with family medicine is useful, as many health issues deployed soldiers encounter are the same in states, and she is looking forward to expanding her knowledge while assigned to Black Jack.
"I am looking forward to new experiences including different medical procedures and trauma care, should such a case present itself," said Koenig.
Lee said while gaining new experiences is rewarding, she hopes to pass on some of her knowledge with the staff and facilitate new ideas for the clinic.
"I would like to facilitate some new communication strategies and start a mentorship program among the medics to help them continuously pursue their future in medicine," said Lee.
Regardless of what the deployment should bring, both Lee and Koenig explained they hope to build lasting professional relationships, and leave behind a positive impact on the brigade upon returning home from their deployment.