Nadine M. Alonzo ’02 is currently serving her second combat tour as a medical logistics company commander in Bagram, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for the United States Army.
During her first deployment to Iraq in 2008, she sustained an injury that left her unable to walk or run for more than 100 meters without excruciating pain. But following a surgery in 2012, Alonzo recently just finished her second half marathon.
How did she do it? “Time, consistence, and most importantly positive thinking.” She said. “Having served through two wars and having observed the lives of those who have lived through generations of war, [I] know [that I have] a lot to be grateful for.”
Alonzo spoke with The Independent from the Army base where she is currently stationed in Afghanistan for a one-on-one interview about her job, her travels, and her constant reminders of Antioch.
Tell us about your current work.Currently I am the 8th Medical Logistics Company Commander. We are deployed to Afghanistan from February-November 2013. We have two large warehouses and four small forward deployed teams, and together we supply all of Afghanistan's ISAF troops with medical supplies and medical equipment maintenance. There are about 90 Soldiers, US civilians, and local nationals working for us, and together we support the 120,000 ISAF forces currently deployed in Afghanistan. ISAF forces include 60,000 American and 60,000 foreign troops and aid organizations.What (career-wise) are you most proud of?We have a very rewarding mission, and through our combined efforts with the medical elements, are responsible for saving lives. Currently, if a Soldier makes it to a medical treatment facility, they have a survival rate of 97%. That is unheard of when referencing survival rates of past large campaigns. The medical evacuation helicopters bearing the wounded and ill, often land on our property, and we are able to see how our efforts preserve combat strength, and the lives of our young Americans, foreign troops, and local nations.How did your time at Antioch influence your work?The most important lesson I learned at Antioch was learning about social powers—social and environmental powers that influence our capacity and willingness to choose the lives we lead. Here in Afghanistan, and also in Iraq, I've witnessed people fight against the social powers that have constrained them from going to school or perusing their desired profession. Most notably I've witnessed women risk their lives every day in order to support their family or peruse a career field. I've witnessed terrible things occur within a community, and I've watched the community bounce back in an attempt to thrive.Any professors that were particularly influential to either your work oryour life?Melinda Kanner was my advisor, and she told me that I would join the Army and peruse a career in the medical professions. Somehow she knew, however I didn't believe her at the time. I am grateful that she believed in me, and I am grateful for the continued support from the Antioch community. Often I am stuck in situations where there is no easy answer, and in those moments I think about my peers and professors at Antioch and imagine what they would say or ask. I try to deconstruct the issue, which in the Army we call “mission analysis,” then I plan and execute the decision. In that respect,Antioch is always with me, and fits the Military Decision Making Processperfectly.What would you say to current Antioch students who are interested in asimilar profession?If you really want to make a difference in struggling third world countries and make a difference in the lives of socio-economically challenged young people, the military might be for you. The military is a values-based organization that supports nation building and the preservation of life and culture. Many Antioch students would be surprised to learn about how the military operates at the grassroots level—there is a lot we do that would make Horace proud.What about your personal life? Relationships? Travel? Education?I finished my masters of science in acupuncture and commissioned into the Army. I've been stationed in Germany for the last six years, and I have been fortunate to see many of Europe's noteworthy sites. I've also spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East and Southwest Asia on missions. I am still single, but now that the Department of Defense supports gay marriage, that might change.What does the future hold for you?Currently we are attempting to make history in the medical evacuation arena and influence the regulations that govern patient movement equipment. We intend to publish the results of our study this fall. The bottom line is that we found a way to transfer patients and prevent the exchange of life-saving equipment such as a ventilator as patients are transferred from point of injury to the hospital. The same device will remain on the patient throughout all levels of care. Our system saves 45 minutes of transfer time, ensuing the golden hour needed by medical professionals in order to conserve life, limb, and eyesight. And we have also increased the rate of survival to the next level of care, increasing overall survival rates. This system may also be deployed in the civilian environment.I would love to come back to Antioch and teach someday.
Photo: Alonzo (left) and a medical element that visited the Kabul Afghan National Army (ANA) Hospital on August 13, 2013.