McKenzie-Willamette Welcomes Returning Veterans
By Lottie Poe Duey
Springfield, OR. During the past year, three McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center employees have returned home after military service in central Asia. As Army National Guard Reserves, Karl Wright, Julie Cavinee each served 12 and 15 month tours of duty at different times and locations. Kimberly Duckworth served in the Naval Reserve in Iraq for one year.
Karl Wright, Iraq, Deployment 2007-2008
Although his official National Guard rank is Lieutenant Colonel, specializing in combat arms and artillery, in Iraq Wright used much from his civilian skill set, along with his military training. “Mine was what is called in military terms a non-standard mission; my work had little to do with combat arms and artillery,” states Wright. “My primary role was managing detainee operations and construction rebuilding projects.” To accomplish these projects, Wright commanded hundreds of soldiers and interacted with U.S., Iraqi and Jordanian construction engineers, Iraqi teachers and clerics, and the international media.
One project Wright is especially proud of is a youth detainee school his unit started. Prior to this school, youths who were detained as possible terrorists were rarely given more to do than watch TV cartoons and play soccer all day. Karl’s unit started a school, using military project funds and donations from the U.S. The school received accreditation from the Iraqi Ministry of Education in February 2008.
“I realized our school was a success, when we had local Iraqi families trying to have their sons detained, so they could attend our school,” Wright states. “Learning to read for many of these young people means being able to read the Quran for themselves for the first time. Education can help them realize that much of what they’ve been told by radical factions about Islam has no basis in the Quran at all.”
“While the law requires that companies retain positions for employees called up for military duty,” says Wright, “McKenzie-Willamette went above and beyond what was required.” After hearing that Karl was called up for one year of military duty, the hospital immediately assured him his position would remain intact and waiting for him. Throughout his year of service in Iraq, Wright regularly exchanged emails with his peers and coworkers. “Receiving a regular flow of communication from back home, both from my workplace and family, was a key factor in sustaining the responsibilities I had on this tour. At another employer’s a few years ago, it took a month for my reinstatement after I returned stateside. With McKenzie-Willamette, as soon as I was ready, I was able to start working.”
Although he had no worries about his job back home, Wright freely admits there were nights in Iraq when he lay awake worrying about his assigned companies of soldiers, especially when they were out on a particularly risky project, such as transporting detainees or vetting construction workers in high terrorist activity areas, where rocket fire was being exchanged.
Leaving behind his wife and two children wasn’t easy, Wright concludes. “I did what I had to do. Knowing that my job was secure was certainly one less thing to lose sleep over while serving.”
Julie Cavinee, Deployment June 2006 – May 2007
Cavinee was deployed to Afghanistan with the 141st army logistics division to support infantry and embedded training teams, which were there training the Afghanistan National Guard. After her own training in Shelby, Mississippi, Julie landed in Afghanistan on June 16, 2006. The types of logistics her division managed included everything from food and water to fuel, ammunitions, trucks, and people (e.g., medics and truck drivers).
In addition to their military service, soldiers overseas are encouraged to participate in humanitarian missions. A certain amount of military funds are allocated for these humanitarian missions, and soldiers are encouraged to solicit additional support from back home.
During Cavinee’s first six months in Kabul, she was able to assist with two humanitarian missions carried out by the 141st Division, along with performing her regular military duties.
Allahaddin Orphanage. On two visits to the Allahaddin Orphanage, Cavinee and her fellow soldiers delivered clothes, shoes, school supplies and toys to orphans ranging in ages from toddlers to teens. The soldiers enjoyed going from classroom to classroom, distributing these “luxuries” and seeing the young faces light up with joy and appreciation. The soldiers also performed some repairs and maintenance upkeep on the orphanage.
Since Cavinee was the only female soldier along on these visits to the orphanage, she was befriended by the young girls of the facility. For months following her two visits to the orphanage, Cavinee says, “some of the Allahaddin girls would call my cell phone, speak the few words of English they knew, and hang up giggling. Despite the language limitations, it was a very heartwarming connection.”
Tangi Kalay School of Peace. As part of the members of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force and Afghanistan Psychological Operations team, Cavinee visited the School of Peace in Tangi Kalay, the most eastern village of the Kabul Province. Here her team distributed school supplies and got to know the school’s founders, American citizen Debra Kahn and her husband Babarak Kahn, Tangi Kalay district chief. The soldiers delivered over 100 books and other supplies to the school, purchased with a combination of allocated military funds and donations from family and friends in the U.S.
Cavinee also assisted with two medical civil action programs (MedCap) missions. On these, American doctors and nurses set up a day clinic in a region needing medical care and attended patients, offering treatment and hygiene training, along with health and medical supplies. Local citizens walked for miles and lined up for hours to receive these services and supplies. All had to be searched for weapons first, one of Cavinee’s many roles.
Other than a two-week leave half way through her assigned year, Cavinee spent the full twelve months in Afghanistan. When she came home at last, she was reunited with her husband and two young children on Father’s Day. “I appreciated having the summer off with my family when I returned home,” Julie notes. “It was important to us. Then coming back to work in the fall, knowing my job was waiting for me . . . that was wonderful.”
Kimberly Duckworth – Navy Reserve, Deployment May 2007 to May 2008
Having served in the Navy Reserve for almost ten years, Kimberly Duckworth recently returned from a full-year deployment in Iraq. Her duties included working at the Demilitarization Reutilization Marketing Office (DRMO), better known in Iraq as a Scrap Yard. She helped soldiers issue out and return items to the yard, as needed for missions and repairs. The DRMO made it easier for the soldiers to do their job by providing needed parts in a more timely manner, than if they were ordered from the United States. If they could find the part they needed at the DRMO, then there was no need for overseas shipping costs and possible project delays.
“Going to Iraq was a positive experience for me and knowing that we are helping the people there gave me a feeling of pride and accomplishment that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” states Duckworth. “After my service, I felt really happy to be coming home, yet sad to say goodbye to all the new friends I had made. I am very glad that I still had a job waiting for me. Just knowing my job was waiting for me made coming home and getting back into civilian life a lot easier.”