Special to American Forces Press Service
March 26, 2008 - Capt. Jody Brown's barely 5-foot-tall stature easily is dwarfed by the sea of infantrymen. The Army nurse's body armor and helmet make her look almost childlike, and her M4 rifle is more than half her size. "Come here. I want a picture," said Brown, a native of Kingston, N.H. Her fellow medic reluctantly posed with her for a picture March 17 before they loaded into Stryker vehicles on their way to Batta village, northwest of Baghdad, en route to a combined medical mission.
"She's never been outside the wire," a soldier said under his breath with a snicker.
He was wrong.
Brown, a registered nurse, supports the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team's units with immunizations and travels to wherever the soldiers are -- even outside the wire. She is assigned to 2nd SBCT's Company C, 225th Brigade Support Battalion, as part of Multinational Division Baghdad.
But on this day, she was not wielding syringes or tracking down soldiers who need shots; she was joining her fellow doctors, physician assistants and medics from 225th Brigade Support Battalion and 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, to provide medical aid for the people of Batta village.
"I'm so excited," she said. The mission marked Brown's first combined medical effort, and she said it is a great way to help the Iraqi people and build positive relationships with them.
"This is a great thing, and I hope we can help as many people as possible," she said.
Brown said she didn't always want to be a nurse, but she knew it was a great way to help people, which is something she's always wanted to do. She joined the Army 10 years ago as a transportation officer, and she credited "great leadership" with her ultimate transfer into the medical corps. Shortly after making the decision to transfer, she graduated from the University of New Hampshire's nursing school.
"Being a nurse is great," she said. "There are not many people who are nurses, and even less can say they serve in the Army."
Brown said she sometimes finds her experiences to be unfathomable.
"I mean, here I am, this petite woman," she said. "I know I can't be infantry, and I know I will never be able to lift what those guys lift, or do what those guys do, but this is just as amazing. I am here, and I can do a lot as a nurse."
The line at the medical exercise seemed endless, as patient after patient shoved into the overcrowded room. As in so many places in Iraq, villagers don't get many opportunities to be seen by a medical professional. Brown worked easily with the patients, breaking the barriers of culture and language with her actions and tone of voice. Only when she was satisfied with the level of care she provided to the patient did she move on to the next.
"She's a great nurse," said Capt. Drew Webb, a native of Monterey, Calif., who serves as a physician assistant with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "She's very caring, and we are happy to have her here."
Brown said she is happy to be in Iraq. She volunteered, against the wishes of her husband, Capt. Steve Brown, to deploy by his side.
"Quite frankly, he was mad," she said, of her husband who is the commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Camp Liberty. "He couldn't think of his wife in a combat zone."
Brown said the deployment has made her stronger, and she and her husband talk whenever they can. Working side by side with Iraqi army medics and the town doctor as they combine their efforts to help the people of Batta village is a satisfying opportunity, Brown said.
"I know I can't help everyone," she said, "but just helping these people is a start in the right direction."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Christina Bhatti serves with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)