Carolyn Nagy

US Army Reserve, Ohio, Desert Storm, 1980-1992

Carolyn has spent her entire life serving others as a nurse, and serving her country as a medical officer in the US Army Reserve. 

A 1961 graduate of Braceville High school in Ohio, Carolyn received her nursing diploma from the Philadelphia General Hospital School of Nursing in 1964. She considered joining the Army as a nurse but was discouraged by her father.

She joined the staff at Lake County Memorial Hospital serving in the Emergency Department. In 1967 she took over as the head nurse of the CCU unit at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland where she would remain until 1972.

From 1972 to 1990 Carolyn served both as the head nurse of the CCU unit at St. Vincent Medical Center as well be a member of the School of Nursing faculty. Carol also was an instructor for the Medical College of Ohio Paramedic program from 1981-1984. She continued her nursing education earning a bachelor’s degree in Nursing in 1984 and her master’s in nursing in 1988

In 1980, Carolyn made the jump into the military, joining the US Army Reserve Nurse Corps, assigned to the 350th Evacuation Hospital as an officer and a nurse. This group of medical reservists would be activated in November of 1990 and deployed to support “Desert Storm” in January of 1991. Now a Major, Carolyn’s responsibilities were to serve as the assistant Chief Nurse of the 350th, overseeing the set-up and day to day operations of the 400-bed field hospital located in Saudi Arabia. The hospital remained active and deployed until June of 1991. Carolyn continued to serve with the 350th until she left the Reserves in 1992.

(Carolyn does an amazing presentation of what is was like for women military personnel serving in the deserts of the Middle East, based on her experiences. 

Carolyn continued to serve in the nursing profession as a caregiver, an educator, and an administrator. She was a flight nurse with Kitty Hawk Air Ambulance, the trauma coordinator at St. Charles Mercy Hospital and the creator and administrator of the Practical Nursing Program at Stautzenberger College for eight years, from 2008 until 2015.

In 2016, after 52 years caring for patients as a nurse, Carolyn retired. This did not mean she has slowed down at all. She is very active in women veterans’ issues and support programs throughout NW Ohio. She is the heart and soul behind the Women Veterans Initiative (WVI) in Toledo. 

She loves to travel having visited Australia, Vietnam, China, Africa, Scandinavia and soon will visit Prague and Budapest. She documents her journeys with her Nikon camera.

When at home “Aunt” Carol loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews. It should be noted that Carolyn plays a mean game of “Pickle Ball!”

“My Story”

My parents owned a grocery store that was attached to our home in a small farming community in Braceville, Ohio. By the time I was thirteen years old I could manage the store, which was the beginning of my work ethic. In those days, the career choice was to become a teacher, nurse or secretary. My mother and role model volunteered as a Gray Lady (Red Cross aide) in a local hospital therefore; nursing became my way out of the countryside.

In 1961 the country girl moved to the big city of Philadelphia. Talk about culture shock but I loved every minute of what the city and hospital had to offer. Philadelphia General Hospital was a 2000 bed hospital supported by the City of Philadelphia located near the center of the city.  Our patients were mostly inner city residents, policemen and firemen. We learned how to improvise when city funding ran low. I passed up the opportunity to enlist upon graduation from nursing school to work in the Emergency Room where I became well versed in trauma care.

My nursing career as a manager and educator focused on critical care, cardiology, and trauma. I believe that ‘something new should be learned every day” therefore; I like the word ‘diversify” to describe all the facets of nursing that I delved into.

Many years later the opportunity and timing was right to enlist. It was something I thought I should do. I was teaching a CPR Course when I overheard a conversation regarding the Army Nurse Corp. The next thing I knew a recruiter was in my office. Nursing and the ANC was a good fit as I could utilize my skills in nursing, management and as an educator. I was also used to wearing a uniform. 

I was assigned to the 350th Evacuation Hospital, Detachment #1 (Toledo, Ohio) for drilling purposes. We were a 400 bed field hospital meaning our two weeks of annual training was spent in the fields at Camp Greyling, Fort McCoy and Fort Campbell. I became an expert at doing “tick checks”. January 1989 our annual training took place at Camp Bullis, Texas where 135 members of the 350th Evacuation Hospital received training and testing on the Deployable Medical Systems (DEPMEDS). The 350th Evacuation Hospital was the first unit of the ARCOM to receive this training.

Luckily, we had the DEPMEDS training because we had to put it into good use in Saudi Arabia in 1991. We had never set up the complete 400 bed hospital and living quarters but we put on our design and engineer hats to accomplish this goal while running sick call. The hospital was located in the King Khalid Military City, which was 70 miles from Kuwait. Our duties consisted of: caring for wounded American soldiers, sick call, clinics, medical care at the EPW Camp, redeployment physicals, injured Iraqi civilians, and maintain the mental and physical wellness of our soldiers.

I have been asked how my civilian nursing experience prepared me for what was experienced during Operation Desert Storm (ODS). In response, my nursing knowledge and patient care skills were the foundation for my nursing practice. Nurses must also be knowledgeable about standards of care when dealing with nurses from other areas of the country and training backgrounds. In Desert Shield/Storm I served as the Assistant Chief Nurse therefore; I needed to call upon my knowledge of standards of care in developing staffing plans, organization, evaluation, research and writing skills. 

Another frequently asked question is “Did the experience change you personally”? I have always been a strong and dependent person so that didn’t change. The experience did prove that one can overcome the fear of the unknown and that life’s experiences enables one to cope with stress. Six months without ones possessions shows that we do not need all the “extras” in our life. Since my civilian nursing job and military nursing job encompassed management and education my nursing practice upon returning home did not change its focus.

Since retiring from nursing in 2015, my energies are directed towards being the Coordinator – Women Veterans Initiative (WVI). WVI is trying to increase the awareness of women veterans plus locate/identify women veterans in NWO to keep them informed of benefits, education, community service and socialization. WVI members are provided via a monthly newsletter that is delivered via email/regular mail. WVI has provided me the opportunity to network with many women veterans and to learn something new every day about veteran issues.

In summary, I was a soldier, officer and nurse and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Submitted by:

Carolyn Nagy

March 17, 2019