BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (6/5/2012) – The Oklahoma City Bombings in 1995 brought devastation, fear, and death, but through the rubble an Air Force Security Forces officer found his calling in life – to be a doctor.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Roy Johnson, Craig Joint-Theater Hospital flight commander for the emergency room department, checks in on patients that have been wounded, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, June 1, 2012. This is Johnson's second deployment overseas. The Higginsville, Mo. native was previously deployed to Iraq. Deployed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. CJTH is one of the largest and best-equipped trauma facilities in Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Clay Lancaster
Dr. (Maj.) Roy Johnson, Craig Joint-Theater Hospital flight commander for the emergency room department here was a police escort for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He remembered a doctor who was giving on-site medical care.
“I was in such awe of the doctor,” he said. “All I could think is that this doctor gets to travel around and help people in need. I wanted to help people in a more hands-on way.”
So after seven years as a cop, Johnson made the switch to become a doctor.
“I loved being a cop, but it's not the same as being a doctor,” said the Higginsville, Mo., native. “I will always have a soft spot for my cops though.”
There is not a typical day for an ER doctor, said Johnson, who is deployed from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
“When patients come in, I don't really know what service they are from,” he continued. “I treat each case as the worst case scenario.”
Patients come into CJTH any way they can get here, whether that is helicopter or a fixed wing. CJTH is one of the largest and best-equipped trauma facilities in Afghanistan.
Working as an ER doctor, Johnson said it reminds him of his boxing days at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. He compared it to, “Being nervous before that first punch is thrown.”
“You walk into the ER, and it's game on,” he continued. “There is a little bit of nervousness when I walk in, but I think it is a healthy dose of fear, which is needed to be an effective doctor. A person who's not afraid is probably overconfident and is going to make a mistake.”
His colleagues and airmen realize the passion he puts into his job.
“Doctor Johnson is very thorough in his work,” said Staff Sgt. Demorris Byrd, CJTH ER medical technician, who is deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. “He likes to teach and really goes over it if you don't understand. He will always explain why he did it the way he did.”
He used to be a cop too, so he is straight forward and doesn't put up with any nonsense, Byrd continued. He still has that cop mentality as a doctor, which definitely works.
“He is the best doctor here,” he said.
But Byrd might be a little biased. The pair has worked together three times. They were deployed together in Iraq and worked together in Texas.
The Air Force veteran doesn't know any life but the military. His father was in the Air Force for 31 years and retired as a chief master sergeant.
Johnson is so used to the military lifestyle that, if he had to pick his own clothes each day, he'd be flustered, he said jokingly. The major wouldn't know what he would do if he had to wear anything but his uniform.
Although the doctor has only been here for two months, the list of patients who stick out in the doctor's mind is long.
A six-year old Afghan child who died in the ER resonates with him because of his four daughters back at home.
“She was a child,” he sadly said. “She was innocent.”
Johnson also recalled the story about the female medic he treated in the ER.
“She was peppered in the face and left arm with shrapnel from an IED blast,” he said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Doc, when can I go back to my guys?'”
A flat screen television sits in front of the ER and on it are the inbound traumas. When a trauma arrives at CJTH, the hospital becomes one cohesive unit, working together to save the lives of their patients.
“Everyone flocks to the ER,” Johnson said. ”From the nurses, X-ray technicians, chaplains, pharmacists...trauma is a team sport.”
This is Johnson's second deployment overseas. His was previously deployed to Iraq.
By USAF Sr. Airman Alexandria Mosness
Provided through DVIDS
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