Maggie Brandt was a surgery resident in New Mexico in 1992, when she was recruited into the Army reserves. She wanted an opportunity to give back to her country. She went to officer basic training in San Antonio, and was assigned as a reservist to Brook Military Hospital’s burn unit.
As an army reservist she was assigned to the 452nd combat support hospital out of Fort McCoy. Her first deployment was to Afghanistan in 2003 where she was stationed at the air base in Bagram. She worked with small mobile medical components of about 30 beds.
She took care of local nationals (Afghan citizens) and Americans in Afghanistan. The most common injuries were from mines. Most Americans were evacuated to Germany within 72 hours because of better specialist care and proximity to home. While there she saw little active combat. The most severe and common injuries were mine-related, but she also saw sniper injuries and vehicle crash injuries. She thought the Afghanistan countryside was beautiful.
Her second tour of duty was in Iraq, where she was stationed in Baghdad from May to August of 2007. She was commander of the 9th Forward Surgical team, made up of 20 staff whom practiced emergency surgery. She was a part of the “90-day boots on the ground rule,” which states that doctors who land in combat zones are there for 90 days. This was implemented to allow for easier return to practices back in the US. Prior to her arrival in Iraq, she had already spent three months of further training at Fort McCoy. They worked in Saddam’s private hospital that was taken over by US troops and located in the “fortified green zone” near the palace. Their building sustained indirect fire almost every day, (mortars, rockets etc.) and she described it as busy and scary.
In Iraq she saw many injuries mainly due to specific weapons particularly IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device) and EFP;s (Explosively Formed Penetrator). These weapons cause devastating injuries and many burn injuries result from them. There has been an active burn surgeon in Baghdad since 2003 because many soldier injuries are caused by these explosives. Their objective was to get American burn patients airlifted out within 12 hours. To do this they would scrub and dress wounds prior to their flights to Germany. If the soldier was very sick, they would stay until they were safe to move. It was physically hard work and it was very hot. She had to be very precise in her work.
The first American nurse killed since Vietnam had been assigned to this hospital, and Maggie took care of her. She said it was hard to take care of people you know personally. She and the physicians stationed with her were ordered to wear body armor when they first arrived whenever they left the building. After the death of the nurse these orders were resumed.
As her tenure as commander was coming to a close she was transferred to the IMA (Individual Mobilization Augmentee) in an active duty post, which means that if the Army needs a substitute or additional physician, she is on call for the position (burn unit specialist).
Maggie now works at Henry Ford Hospital in downtown Detroit as the associate Director of the surgical ICU, and the program director of critical care fellowship.