Martin Army Community Hospital's Chief of Behavioral Health Maj. Julie Shin guides beneficiaries on their journey to mental wellness.

U.S. Army photo by Steve Stanley
Martin Army Community Hospital's Chief of Behavioral Health Maj. Julie Shin guides beneficiaries on their journey to mental wellness.

U.S. Army photo by Steve Stanley (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

FORT BENNING, GA – “We meet patients in their toughest moments and getting the privilege of walking them through those to better times is such an honor,” said Martin Army Community Hospital’s Behavioral Health Chief Maj. Julie Shin. “I love being a clinical psychologist because I love helping patients on their journeys.”

The former high school athlete overcame her own mental and physical challenges. Shin has completed more than ten half marathons and three marathons after undergoing spinal fusion surgery her junior year which put an end to over a decade of cheerleading, track and cross country competition.

The California native always envisioned working with children. After studying psychology at U.C. Davis, she earned her doctorate at San Francisco’s Alliant International University … with you guessed it, an emphasis on children and family. Shin even took a year off between undergraduate and graduate school to work with children with autism. Life apparently had other plans. Residency at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) changed her entire career trajectory.

“During my 4th year I did a direct commission into the Army for my internship and residency,” said Shin. “I loved it. I had the best leadership and opportunities while at JBLM and I found my passion for both the Army and my field.”

When Shin decides to do something, she is all in. After mastering how to jump out of a perfectly functioning plane in Airborne School right here at Fort Benning, she moved to Bamberg, Germany. There she served as the Behavioral Health Officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

“I was lucky to be a part of one of the best brigades in the Army under phenomenal leadership [now Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling],” said Shin. “I spent a lot time traveling back and forth from Germany to our infantry units in Italy in preparation for deployment.”

Shin confessed her first duty station remains her favorite. Not just because her frequent TDYs allowed her to embrace “la bella vita.”

“That is where I met my future husband [Lt. Col. Woo ‘Dave’ Shin]. He was a company commander in one of our infantry brigades,” explained Shin. “He happens to be from California as well, but we met in Italy – crazy Army.”

They deployed together to Afghanistan in June 2012. A deployment during which Shin earned a combat action badge and a purple heart.

“It was a challenging deployment,” said Shin. “We lost 13 Soldiers from our brigade, with over 35 Soldiers in our AO (area of operations) and countless medevacs (medical evacuations).”

The harrowing experience only strengthened their relationship. They got married in April 2013 and have three young children.

Shin started as BMACH’s Chief of Behavioral Health in July. She said administrative duties take up a large part of her day because she oversees 104 staff members across six different clinics, not including the inpatient ward. The best part of her job is face-to-face patient care. To help others is why she became a psychologist.

“The hardest part is watching patients suffer – it is so hard sometimes to hear and see their journeys [when they are not] ready to make a step toward change,” said Shin. “That can be hard to watch.”

But giving patients the tools to slay their inner demons and nurture resiliency is worth it.

“It is those moments – the moments in which you get to see your patients feel good after doing so much work that makes a difference. They truly do all the work – we just help them along the way.”

As far as reducing the stigma around mental health, Shin said people should just view therapy as merely a conversation … and who can’t use a conversation?

“It would be great if a brigade commander asked a battalion commander or company commander how many Soldiers sought care and then praised them for [those who] sought care,” said Shin. “What a difference that mentality shift would be.”