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Scioto County coroner Johnson serves Ohio Guard in Iraq

By Katie Poorman

On a typical morning, Terry Johnson, D.O., of McDermott, a town near Portsmouth, would wake up and after preparing for a long workday, say good-bye to his family and carry out a trio of duties as Scioto County coroner, family practice residency director at Southern Ohio Medical Center and the assistant dean for Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education. But for almost two months, Johnson has risen to the morning sun of Iraq and goes about fulfilling his fourth duty as head of the Ohio Army National Guard (OHARNG) Medical Command.

Terry Johnson, D.O.During the latest deployment of American military forces in Iraq Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, the Guard was called upon to provide medical support and care for soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Johnson shipped out to Iraq and, along with other OHARNG physicians, will have a 90-day stay in Iraq. A 1991 graduate of Ohio University s medical school, Johnson is one of seven OU-COM graduates being deployed to Iraq. The other six -- Brett Call, D.O.; Patrick Callender, D.O.; Christopher Coulson, D.O.; Gregory Hill, D.O.; Tracy Ringo, D.O.; and Timothy Wagner, D.O. -- plus four other physicians also are members of the Guard's medical command.

"We, that is, Ohio State Surgeon Stephen Ulrich, M.D., and I, have a deployment scheme mapped out to cover Charlie Company 118. We are charged with filling the deployments that Ohio is assigned," said Johnson. Charlie Company 118 is a medical company in an Area Support Ambulance Battalion that was recently called to duty in Iraq.

In that company there are three positions for physicians. The way things have been done in previous deployments, I would have chosen three of my doctors to go over there and fill those positions, and we would have sent them off for however long that unit was going. But there's a new National Guard policy in effect that covers physicians, dentists and nurses that states that deployment for those groups of people will only last 90 days 90 Days Boots on Ground.

When our troops wake up in the morning and they've got a cough, or they're out on a mission and they get wounded, they're brought to us. We have built a troop medical clinic over here.

"We can run a little emergency room. It's very well-equipped and very well-staffed. I used to be the director of an urgent care facility and it's quite similar."

Not only do they treat the troops who are ill and have injuries, they also begin the medical screening for the soldiers coming back to America.

"You can't just put someone on a plane to be sent back to the states," he said. They have to go through a medical process to make sure they're fit to return.

Two other OU-COMers, Col. Brett Call, deputy commander of the medical command, a 1991 graduate, and Maj. Patrick Callender, a 1995 graduate, left after Johnson arrived.

Johnson left behind his four sons, Jesse, 25; Steven, 23; Tyler, 10; and Nick, 8, and his wife, Jennifer.

Steven is actually a guardsman also, Johnson said. "He's in the 1-137 assault helicopter battalion as a helicopter mechanic, so he used to work on the helicopters I flew in."

The next mission for the OHARNG physicians is to Guyana in the spring of 2005. It's a medical relief mission during which they treat the people from the surrounding countryside. They performed a mission similar to this one in Panama in the spring of 2003.

"Our doctors are doing something good for their fellow countrymen and others. We're here (in Iraq and other places) helping our neighbors' kids and making sure they re taken care of and doing what we can do to bring them back safely and in good health and at a great sacrifice to themselves and their practices."

"We worry about our troops getting back safely. And, of course, I want to get all my docs back to Ohio in one piece."

Katie Poorman is a student writer with the College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

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