Westmont Magazine Doctor on Duty
Shortly before Christmas, Lt. Cmdr. Julie Ohman Kellogg ’88 learned her unit faced deployment. A pediatrician and Navy officer based in Jacksonville, Fla., with the 2nd Force Service Support Group, she was one of many mothers, wives and daughters sent to Kuwait Jan. 30. Her husband, Todd, took charge of their two children and the household during her absence.
Once the fighting began, Julie and her M.A.S.H.-style unit, known as the Devil Docs, moved into Iraq. Living in tents in Camp Viper, not far from the front lines, the doctors and nurses provided medical care for those injured in battle, including Iraqis.
With no computers or phones in the desert, Julie had little communication with her family. But the folks at home followed her activities through stories filed by Sharon Schmickle, an embedded reporter with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
For example, a March 31 article described Julie’s efforts to comfort a badly wounded Iraqi man. Realizing that he was close to death, Julie and a psychologist found a Qur’an for him to read. He asked them for paper and a pen and wrote a message. After he died during surgery, Julie had the message translated, and it simply thanked the women for their kindness.
The Star Tribune story printed Julie’s reaction. “‘It’s so hard when you are dealing with many of these people,’ said Kellogg, who has helped care for many Iraqi patients since the war started. ‘I will always have permanent memorials in my heart for them. Even though I worked with them for a very short time, in the big scheme of things my life will be changed for having done it.’”
A 2-year-old Iraqi child, badly injured by a landmine, arrived in the camp and underwent emergency surgery. Because Kuwait refused to treat any Iraqis, the doctors couldn’t evacuate the tiny victim to a pediatric hospital there. He had little chance of surviving in the desert tent, and despite Julie’s determination to save his life, he died hours after the operation.
Two events reported by the press illustrate the dangers the doctors faced. Schmickle described a 500-pound explosive that bomb disposal experts discovered in the sand near a medical tent in Camp Viper. Sanjay Gupta from CNN noted that Iraqi forces were actually sighted within the camp. He also explained the Devil Docs’ “jump ward,” which moved with the troops as they advanced, keeping the unit close to the front lines.
These and other stories opened a window into Julie’s war experience and the challenges she faced. The embedded journalists did much more than report on the conflict — they became a link between the deployed troops and their families.