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Two Military Nurses Share Common Ground of Service, Education

Image of Two Military Nurses Share Common Ground of Service, Education. U.S. Army Lt. Ingrid Garcia-Gomez receives a Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree from Chamberlain University, Jacksonville, Florida in 2016. She attended the U.S. Army’s basic officer leadership course in Camp Bullis, Texas, following earning her degree. She currently works in the emergency department at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy Photo)

Two military nurses may have taken different paths to their chosen profession, but their stories share common ground.

U.S. Army 1st. Lt. Ingrid Garcia-Gomez started her journey in Nicaragua where her family served as officers, pilots, infantry, and medics during the Nicaraguan Revolution before immigrating to the United States in the 1980s.

A family legacy in the military service runs deep for U.S. Navy Lt. Gabrielle Riley. Her sister, U.S. Navy Lt. Liza Ducusin, is an intensive-care unit nurse at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Their father, Nic Ducusin, retired as a master chief petty officer after 32 years of service.

Both are proud of their military lineages and experienced first-hand their families’ commitment to their countries and military, providing the catalyst to follow in their footsteps.

Garcia-Gomez had several male relatives graduate from La Academia Militar de Nicaragua (Nicaraguan Military Academy). After completing the basic officer course, they trained with the 173rd Airborne, Fort Campbell in Kentucky, earning airborne wings at Fort Gulick, a former U.S. base in the Panama Canal Zone. They also graduated from an infantry officer course, counter-insurgency training, and jungle operations training at Fort Gulick.

“I was influenced by my family’s military heritage and pride of becoming United States citizens,” said Garcia-Gomez, who received a direct commission and became a U.S. Army nurse in 2022 after serving eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a patient administration specialist. She earned her nursing degree from Chamberlain University in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2016.

Riley’s families’ heritage and U.S. Navy service are also sources of great pride and motivate her to be the best sailor and nurse she can be.

“My father was 18 when he joined the Navy in the Philippines back in 1974 after graduating high school in Subic Bay,” she said. “He came from a large family, and they did not have much to live off of. Once my dad saw that there was an opportunity to join, he took it.”

After moving to Jacksonville, Ducusin established a home there after two years in the U.S. Navy and helped pay for his siblings to come to the U.S., go to school and earn their citizenship. He encouraged his brother, Jose, to enlist in the U.S. Navy, who retired as a petty officer first class.

Although Riley’s dad became an officer after graduating Limited Duty Officer School in Newport, Rhode Island, he wanted to retire as a master chief.

“His dedication to the Navy and his family encourages me to continue my Navy career and follow his legacy of service to our country,” said Riley, who earned a nursing degree from Chamberlain’s Navy Nurse Program in 2018.

Garcia-Gomez and Riley not only share a sense of pride in their respective families but also in calling themselves military nurses.

“The best part of being a Navy Nurse is participating in different tactical trainings and talking with sailors and others in the Navy,” Riley said. “I enjoy the comradery in the units where I’ve worked, the multiple teaching opportunities and the continuous trainings we, as nurses, need to maintain in order to fulfill our duties.”

Before becoming a U.S. Army nurse, Garcia-Gomez deployed twice during her eight years in the Reserve. In 2017, her unit, the 331st Minimal Care Detachment, was mobilized to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Three years later while serving with the 7217th Medical Support Unit in Perrine, Florida, she deployed with the 7236th Medical Support Unit, Fort Benning, Georgia, to Landstuhl Army Medical Center, Germany, in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel.

While in the Reserve, she worked as an emergency room nurse at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Florida. Gomez-Garcia transferred to Broward Health North, Level II Trauma Center, in Pompano Beach, Florida.

“I always knew I wanted to become an Army ER nurse, she said. “It may sound cliché, but I crave the fast pace, quick thinking, and the ‘keep calm under pressure’ feeling. When I first joined the United States Army Reserve, I was a private and eventually became an NCO (noncommissioned officer), the coveted ‘back bone of the Army.’ I lived and breathed the Army.”

Riley’s nursing career began at Naval Medical Center San Diego. She served as a medical surgical nurse for three years and then two years in the emergency department.

Riley received orders for Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Florida where she served little more than a year before going to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka in Japan.

“I wanted to serve active duty members, their family members and retirees in the scope of health care,” she said.

Garcia-Gomez, who received a direct commission into the U.S. Army and completed a basic officers leadership course in 2022, began her active duty career in the emergency room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“Nothing made more sense to me than to join the Army Nurse Corps and share my experience and knowledge gained as a civilian nurse and NCO with other military nurses,” she said.

Garcia-Gomez and Riley are also recent graduates of the Defense Health Agency’s Combat Casualty Care Course, known as C4, one of the readiness training opportunities within the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute curriculum. The C4 training provides four days of professional and combat medicine in realistic and challenging settings.

“As a nurse I felt pride teaching a few of the residents how to start IV’s, prime IV fluid bags, splint and set up for a chest tube,” Garcia-Gomez said. “It was wonderful to combine forces in the field with medical doctors, nurses and physician assistants from the Air Force, Navy along with allied foreign comrades like South Korea and Germany.”

Riley said she wanted to learn about operational medicine and C4 provided that opportunity.

“I wanted to learn what it’s like to be an EMT in tactical settings,” she said. “I think it [C4] made me a better officer and nurse because as a leader, it helps us navigate or delegate tasks to individuals who can do certain jobs. It also reminded me on how to give certain medications that we rarely use in [military hospitals] when acuity of the patients is not that high.”

Garcia-Gomez said that every nurse should attend the C4 training.

“The Army has a saying ‘we train as we fight,’” she said. “Preparing for war where they predict prolonged field care with little resources makes it crucial to have strong triage skills and make adequate use of medical equipment and medicine. C4 does exactly that.”

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