OTF Soldier Story for July 26, 2010 - Maj. Randall Mitchell
Current Unit: 345th Combat Support Hospital
Current Position: Emergency Room Nurse
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Palm Coast, Fla.
Hometown: El Dorado, Kan.
Years of Service: 23
As an Army Reserve Emergency Room Nurse, Maj. Randall Mitchell is committed to meeting the medical needs of his community at home as well as those of fellow Soldiers when deployed overseas. During a 20-month deployment from May 2008 to February 2010, he worked in three emergency departments throughout Iraq where he provided medical care to injured Soldiers along with Iraqi civilians, soldiers and insurgents.
Reflecting on his time overseas, the results of service go beyond basic medical treatment.
“We made some of the biggest differences in Soldiers’ lives. Often, the care we provided was critical in saving their lives,” he said. “We always made sure those guys were getting the best treatment possible.”
Starting his time abroad stationed in Al Asad, located in western Iraq, Mitchell served as the head nurse for the emergency room and ensured that patients received the care needed as they arrived. From there, he was reassigned to a unit in Mosul, in the northern part of the country, and served again as the head emergency room nurse. However, due to increased insurgent activity in the area, the hospital received a higher number of Soldiers wounded in combat.
“It was hard seeing young Soldiers injured, but I was honored to have a part in their recovery,” he said. “I’m proud and humbled we could take care of those injured soldiers and get them back to their families.”
On Dec. 25, 2008, the hospital in Mosul was rocketed and a trauma surgeon serving in the Army Reserve was killed.
“There haven’t been many doctors killed or injured overseas, so it was a difficult time for the whole hospital and unit. It was hard to keep morale up after that,” Mitchell said.
However, the Soldiers remained committed to their missions, and in early 2009, Mitchell was reassigned to his third duty station in Tikrit, a town northwest of Baghdad. As the night supervisor for the hospital, he made rounds throughout the evening and managed a staff of 250 Soldiers. The managerial role was familiar to Mitchell, who has served as a nurse and an administrator in the civilian health sector for the same amount of time he has served his country in uniform.
“In many ways, stateside hospitals and in-theater hospitals aren’t that different. However, there is a great level of variance of injuries in American hospitals. In theater, the fighting force is generally healthy—they don’t have cancer or chronic heart disease—and you typically see battle injuries, with the occasional case of gastrointestinal illness from local food or injuries from sports and physical training,” he said.
Although this was Mitchell’s first deployment in theater, it was an opportunity that he welcomed.
“You are excited to get to do what you’ve been trained to for so many years,” he said. “It’s an honor and a privilege that’s worth all the other years of work and going through the Army Reserve.”
Returning from Iraq in May, Mitchell recently resumed his civilian job as the director of the emergency department at Florida Memorial Hospital Medical Center near his home in Palm Coast, Fla.
Mitchell and his wife, Robyn, have three daughters, and his impact on them is clear: Randi (24) now works as a paramedic but has future plans to be a nurse, RaDonna (22) graduated from college while her father was deployed and now works as an emergency room nurse, and Rachel (20) will be certified as an emergency medical technician this fall.
“All my daughters have talked about serving in the Army, but none of them are serious about it yet,” he said. “However, my service in the Army has taught me a lot about commitment and responsibility, and I’ve tried to teach my daughters that, whether or not they serve in the military.”
Although he is eligible to retire from the military, Mitchell plans to continue serving in the Army Reserve for several years to come.
“I’ve been doing this for 23 years,” he said. “It’s a big part of my life, and I enjoy the people that I serve alongside.”