She is a combat medic who dreams of becoming a nurse.
Specialist Lisa Ngo, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), works in the clinic at Campbell Airfield Medical Home.
“At the clinic, on a day-to-day basis we screen the patients and then we see them in-person,” Ngo said. “I speak with my provider every day and then we come up with a plan. She examines them and then she treats them accordingly.”
But for five months of this year, Ngo worked 24-hour shifts with the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment medical platoon, working in isolation barracks set up to treat and care for Soldiers who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were contagious. She worked with a group of four people who took patients’ vitals during breakfast and dinner, delivered meals and answered any calls they had.
“If they came out positive, they’d come to the isolation barracks and we would give them a room and take care of them from there and just monitor them for two weeks,” Ngo said. “We did that for quite a while until another unit recently took over.”
In just three years, Ngo’s Army career has already taken her around the world and she is confident the experience she gains will take her far in life.
Ngo knew she was interested in medicine when she was still in high school.
“My end goal is to be a nurse, so I had already been taking some health science courses and medical courses while I was in high school,” she said. “When the Army recruiters came to our school, I asked specifically for a medical job.”
Because she scored high enough on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery she got the job she wanted.
“I enlisted at 17 years old, right out of high school,” she said. “I thought it was a great opportunity just to have a full-time job and get some medical experience while I’m at it and get some funding for school.”
That was July 2017. She went to basic combat training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and advanced individual training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
“My first duty was Fort Stewart, Georgia,” Ngo said. “I was there for a year-and-a-half right after I graduated AIT, which was March of 2018. Right as I got to my unit at Fort Stewart, my unit was already in Korea for five months, so they immediately sent me over there to finish the rest of the tour.”
She spent four months in South Korea before her unit redeployed to Fort Stewart.
“I was in the evac section,” Ngo said. “On a day-to-day basis, I worked on vehicles and just handled medical supplies and we would see patients in our aid station.”
She helped maintain vehicles and drove a military ambulance.
“Every time we went out to the field and there was an emergency, one of our evacuation teams, which is one of the evac vehicles, would have to go out there and get the patient,” Ngo said.
She has treated patients in the field – mostly for heat injuries – and one platoon at Fort Stewart that was attacked by tiny, winged enemies.
“There was a field problem where a platoon ran into a hornet’s nest and three of them went down and one was in anaphylactic shock,” Ngo said. “I had to go get him and load him into the vehicle to get him evacuated. He was going in and out, and we tried calling for air support but they were not ready, so we had to get him to the evacuation point.”
Although she said she played only a small part, but her efforts helped save the Soldier’s life.
Roles and role models
There are multiple roles a combat medic can fill, Ngo said.
“You can be on the line, the evac section, the treatment team or the clinic,” Ngo said. “Initially at Fort Stewart, I was in the evac section and once we got back to the states, I went to the line for about eight months. That means you get attached to an infantry company, so I had my own platoon of people that I had to take care of in an infantry battalion.”
She provided medical treatment for about 30 Soldiers.
“If they went out in the field, you went with them,” Ngo said. “You’re pretty much the first aid for those 30 people. So, if they need anything, if they are hurt out there, they come straight to you. I had to learn a lot of the infantry stuff they did because I had to be able to keep up and know what they were doing.”
When Ngo first arrived at Fort Campbell, she was in the treatment section, keeping track of supplies, maintaining vehicles and seeing patients at an aid station. From there, she worked at the clinic before taking five months to care for COVID-19 patients.
At the Campbell Army Airfield Medical Home clinic, she sees patients for a wide range of issues.
“We see anything from a cough, sore throat, up to heart problems that need to be referred to cardiology,” Ngo said.
While serving her country, she also has pursued her education and is close to getting an associate’s degree in health sciences. Ngo hopes to get a bachelor’s degree before transitioning out of the Army. She knows she wants to be a nurse but said she is still not sure if she will pursue nursing school through the Army or as a civilian.
The experiences she is gaining now will help, whether she remains on active duty, tries for a Department of Defense job or works in the civilian world, she said.
“I’m already getting a lot of face-to-face patient care, so I will have a lot of experience from that, as well as medical knowledge learned from doing this job,” Ngo said. “You also get an EMT certification and college credits that go toward your degree.”
The classes she is taking now are prerequisites for her nursing degree and she has GI Bill money to continue her education if she gets out when her contract ends March 2022, she said.
Ngo agreed to be part of the “Celebrating Women Who Serve” exhibit at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville because the Army taught her she is tougher than she thought and she wants other women to know they are too.
“Initially, when I first joined, I wasn’t sure I would make it through because it wasn’t like I was super active before the military,” Ngo said. “I mainly wanted to test myself and see if I could do it, while gaining experience doing school, which I was able to do. I’ve learned a lot and I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. I couldn’t do a single pushup when I joined.”
When she was attached to an infantry unity, the Army had just started putting women on the line and that was a significant change. Ngo doesn’t want women with the passion for service to feel discouraged from joining.
“There’s a lot that you go through during your Army career,” Ngo said. “You have to be very disciplined and there are times when you just have to maintain that discipline, even when it’s hard. (Service also has) increased my ability to stay professional and just my social skills in general. I’m a lot more confident and outspoken than I used to be.”