I got an email from Rich this morning, telling me he’d made it safely to Balad, north of Baghdad. He is a Major in the U.S. Air Force and this is his first tour in Iraq. He is working at the hospital there as a trauma surgeon.
I’ve known Rich since our first days at U.C. Riverside together. He got his bachelor’s degree at UCR, and then went on to get his Master of Public Health and M.D. After that, he did a 5 year surgery residency at St. Agnes hospital in Baltimore (where, for a while, I saw a lot more of him, his wife, Tricia, and his two kids). I attended his graduation from his surgery residency a few years ago. He moved back to L.A. and did a one-year laproscopic surgery fellowship at USC. He joined the Air Force while still in his residency. Once he was done with his fellowship, he started up in the Air Force full-time, attended officer training and was stationed at a hospital in Texas until his recent deployment.
Rich will be in Balad for the next 4 months or so. He is the first of my friends to join the service and be deployed to Iraq (Doug was in the Army but was lucky enough to stay state-side). As I said, he’ll be there working as a trauma surgeon, a kind of Hawkeye Pierce in the ongoing conflict there. He said that they arrived there in full combat gear, but I think he was able to change out of that pretty quickly. I hope his stay there will be a safe and uneventful one.