Face of Defense: Army Biochemist Serves in Afghanistan
By Army Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
Regional Command South
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 10, 2014 Army Capt. David Kingery was faced with a tough choice a few years ago.
Army Capt. David Kingery, senior researcher with the Joint Combat Casualty Research Team, smiles for the camera April 4, 2014, at the Role 3 NATO Multi-National Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Kingery’s role is to capture medical lessons learned during Operation Enduring Freedom and use the research to help further military medicine. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Originally I wanted to be a doctor, but I just wanted to do something more with science. I enjoyed it more than the ‘business’ aspect of it,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference. So after doing some research, I found a place where I could do that -- the Army.”
After getting his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Yale University, Kingery received a direct commission as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Department in 2010.
Shortly after his commissioning, he began his first assignment as a biodefense researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., where he conducted laboratory research with the goal of increasing soldier effectiveness.
Kingery, whose father and grandfathers also served in the military, said the combination of science and being able to serve as a commissioned officer and leader was the perfect mix.
“In the end I just wanted to be a leader within the medical community,” Kingery said. “With the work I have done, I feel like I am doing just that.”
His work now has him serving at the Role 3 NATO Multi-National Medical Unit Hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of the Joint Combat Casualty Research Team, which directly reports to U.S. Army Central Command.
With members of the team spread throughout Afghanistan, Kingery serves as a senior combat casualty researcher for the JC2RT, capturing the medical lessons learned during Operation Enduring Freedom, with the overall goal of improving military medicine in the future.
Specific research includes working on trauma intervention and characterizing types of shock.
Although he is not directly involved with the treatment of patients like a surgeon or nurse, Kingery says the JC2RT has a great relationship with the hospital.
“We add to the hospital’s mission,” he said. “They have taken us in like we were one of their own and have been very welcoming. In return, we give anything we can to help everyone here. We have a great relationship.”
Kingery is on call just like a surgeon may be for an emergency.
“Whenever a call comes in, they rush in and so do we,” he said. “We have to collect the data immediately so it can be the most accurate.”
Sometimes those calls require a little more than data collection.
“There are times where I am a litter bearer because they may have personnel already engaged or working on something else,” Kingery said. “It goes back to giving anything we can back to the hospital, because they have given us so much. And in the end, whatever we can do to help patients, we do.”
Kingery also found another way to give back to the hospital, after volunteering to be the public affairs officer there.
He talked about his motivation for accepting additional leadership positions during his deployment.
“I volunteered to do it, because I wanted to get the message out about all the wonderful people and the outstanding service members working here at the hospital,” Kingery said. “People need to know that this isn’t just a trauma bay, it is a full-blown hospital -- it is a force-multiplier. We have people treating service members and getting them back out to their jobs, and it’s cool to highlight that story.”
Kingery’s research at the hospital and work in Afghanistan will conclude soon, but his role as a leader will increase shortly after he returns home -- as he is set to become company commander at the Landstuhl Medical Regional Center in Germany.
“I am excited for the new opportunity and the chance to serve in a command role,” he said. “With every new position or assignment comes extra responsibility and I am ready for that.”
Kingery’s excitement for his new position comes as a bittersweet moment, when he talked about the experience he has had in Afghanistan, and how it has been a tremendous opportunity.
“The hospital has really gotten us involved, and I have learned so much,” Kingery said. “Working amongst all the different services here and seeing people work together has taught me a lot. At the end of the day, we are all here to make the hospital better.”
Kingery talked about the impact working at the hospital should have on those who serve here.
“If you work here, you will never have to ask yourself if you made a difference. It truly is a special place,” he said.
Kingery said it is amazing to see where he is now after making the decision to join the Army four years ago.
“Looking back, it’s honestly been the best decision I could have made,” Kingery said. “The work we do, I know, is contributing to our country.”