Anesthetist IA Provides Critical Care in Iraq, now in Counterpiracy Ops

Story Number: NNS090128-11Release Date: 1/28/2009 3:55:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW/SW) Monique K. Hilley

GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- Navy medical professionals spend their tours in hospitals, aboard ships or with Marines. Many Navy medical professionals aren't always on the ground on the front line of battle, yet those who serve individual augmentee assignments (IA) have opportunities to apply their real-world training in the most unique places and situations.

"I met some really good people while deployed to Iraq. Professionally, you had to be flexible while doing your job, and I had to apply the training I received to a real-world environment," said Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Hemelt.

While assigned as an IA to the Combat Logistics Battalion 2 Medical in Al Asad, Iraq, Hemelt found his unexpected IA experience a rewarding one. In Iraq, Hemelt worked as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at a surgical platoon.

He contributed to Operation Iraqi Freedom by providing anesthesia care to U.S., coalition and Iraqi military and civilians. During his time in Al Asad, Hemelt worked with Sailors, Marines and Soldiers, making a difference in the lives of U.S, coalition and Iraqi military, as well as civilian men, women and children in the region.

"I had to face trauma and injuries unlike any that I've seen before," said Hemelt.

While dealing with war-time medical trauma, he had to face his own personal crisis, despite the fact he was on the other side of the world. From the Middle East, the New Orleans native helped his extended family manage the best he could, while still providing top-notch medical care to military and civilians alike.

"During my IA, Hurricane Katrina destroyed about half the homes in my and my wife's families," explained Hemelt. "I had to deal with these problems from Iraq. It was difficult to say the least, but overall, this was a very rewarding experience that has taught me to be flexible."

Hemelt accepted the IA assignment while stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Va. Following his IA duty, he received orders to Fleet Surgical Team 8 and is currently embarked on the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD) 17 as part of Combined Task Force 151.

CTF 151 is a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

Hemelt said his real-world experiences in Iraq have served him well. They prepared him for his current task of providing anesthesia care and medical assistance in an afloat surgical environment as part of Combined Task Force 151, where he may have to provide emergent care to a military member, civilian or suspected pirate.

For more news from Combined Task Force 151, visit

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