Members of Ball State's ROTC program study nursing to prepare for service time - FEATURES

Kara Beattie and Chad Shelley joined the Army for different reasons when they were recruited in 2001.

Beattie wanted to help out as an Army nurse. Shelley just wanted to grow up. Educational benefits, leadership experience and gaining new skills were also selling points for the young recruits.

Seven years later, after both have served their country in Iraq - one as a nurse and the other as a communications officer - their roles have changed.

Beattie is Ball State University's Army nurse counselor, overseeing all students who decide to take the Army nursing option.

Shelley, a senior in the Army nursing program, is trying to get his degree and go back overseas if his country needs him.

Unlike traditional medical practices, deciding to be an Army nurse recruit can throw individuals into a war zone, and it can be a significant cut in pay. Army nursing can often face the same shortages as civilian nursing, in both personnel and supplies.

But that doesn't stop those people who "just want to be there," Beattie said.

"I don't know what makes someone out to be an Army nurse," she said. "What I do know is that we all seem to have a story, and in the end, that story - that purpose - is what a lot of people find."

Capt. Beattie's Iraq memories include sun sets in Baghdad behind the distant mountains, cooling heat-scorched sand.

As beautiful as the country could be, the battle never ceased.

Blood-soaked uniforms came into Beattie's care, each occupying a different soul.

Some uniforms were camouflaged with the American flag stitched on the right sleeve. Others were the ragged clothes of Iraqis, made up of whatever could be worn.

To an Army nurse, they all needed to be saved.

To Beattie, they deserved what could have been a rare second chance on the streets of Baghdad.

"I took care of innocent Iraqis, and I took care of those who wanted to die," Beattie said. "Army nurses take care of people who don't speak the same language and who don't share the same customs. Sometimes you just get the feeling that they have nothing else, but you."

But, when Beattie signed her ROTC contract Sept. 4, 2001, her country was not at war. Seven days later the World Trade Center's collapse showed that would change. After witnessing the events of 9/11, she knew her signature, and her experience at the school of nursing at the Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio suddenly became a lot more important.

"I can honestly tell you that I don't think I fully understood what was going on," Beattie said. "I started to realize it when the ROTC started saying they would pull our student status. I felt so proud."

Beattie was deployed to Iraq for one year, starting in October 2005. Her 12-hour night shifts started with Beattie getting records of all the patients she was looking over. As the evening went on, it became busier, Beattie said.

"Once midnight hit, it would be really busy. There was no rhyme or reason when we got mass causalities. It was somewhat difficult to determine, and that's what made it hard."

The Army Nurse Corps averages about 150 new recruits a year, and by result, it has failed to make a national admission goal since 1999, Beattie said.

"Some people feel that calling to serve," she said. "But the reason we haven't made our goals is because people have fear - a lot of that is fear. I think certain generations don't feel a special responsibility to serve."

The fluctuating economy has taken attention away from the war the last few weeks as things are starting to get better, Beattie said.

Looking back on her experiences, one phrase has echoed in her mind throughout her life of the past seven years.

"My commanding officer looked me in the face and said to me '[Beattie] you're going to make a difference, I just know it,'" she said. "I don't think I'll ever forget that."
To Shelley the Army is a family affair, but nursing isn't.

He was the first person in his military family to go into nursing, although he didn't start that way.

"I started as a radio guy in Iraq, taking care of odds and ends," Shelley said. "It really was a 24/7 job."

Shelley was stationed west of Baghdad in an area that was far from quiet, he said.

"We were getting mortared every day," Shelley said. "There were bunkers everywhere, though, so we didn't feel so bad."

The Indianapolis native started at Ball State the summer after his basic training and became interested in health fields.

Shelley said he had good grades in his prerequisites that pointed him into the nursing profession; however, he soon was deployed to Iraq for 18 months.

When he returned, Shelley said, he was able to shadow an Army nurse at a three-week program called the Nurse Summer Training Program, sponsored by Ball State and the ROTC. People who are enrolled report to an Army hospital in the United States or Germany for professional training within their field.

Shelley said his decision has started to pay off, as he is beginning to help more people.

"I was used to the thought that the military was going to take care of me," Shelley said. "I wanted to change it up in the family line. Your choices make you who you are."

Shelley said he remembers every second of his deployment, but he values being home.

"When I came back it felt like a dream," he said. "Everything was different from what I was used to, but it was good to be back."

More information about army nurses

-Feb. 2, 2005, marks the 104th anniversary of the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps.

-When the United States entered World War I in 1917, there were only 4,093 nurses on active duty. By November 1918, there were 21,460 Army nurses, with 10,000 serving overseas.

-When the United States entered World War II, fewer than 7,000 nurses were on active duty. By 1945, more than 57,000 Army Nurses were assigned to hospital ships and trains, flying ambulances, field hospitals, evacuation stations, and general hospitals at home and overseas.

-Army nurses cared for combat troops during the landing on Inchon; the advance across the 38th parallel into North Korea; the amphibious landing on the east coast of Korea; the drive toward the Yalu River; and the retreat to the 38th parallel. Throughout the Korean War, 540 Army nurses served on the embattled peninsula.

-In Vietnam, of the nearly 5,000 Army nurses who served in 44 hospitals, eight women made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

-During Operation Desert Storm, approximately 2,200 nurses served in 44 hospitals.

-In 1983, they supported combat troops in Grenada; in 1989 in Panama; and in 1991 in the Middle East. Since December 1995, Army nurses have been deployed with medical units in support of NATO alliance troops in Haiti, Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo. Nurses have continued to serve proudly during relief efforts following natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

-More than 2,000 nurses have served in the war on terrorism.