Dr. James Ard leaves for final deployment as an Army staff physician
LAHAINA — Col. James G. Ard last week Friday left for his fifth and final Army Reserve deployment since 2004 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A family physician at Kaiser Permanente in Lahaina since 1995, Dr. Ard is the last Maui physician active in the military reserve.
After several days of processing at Fort Benning, Georgia, Ard will be deployed to Vicenza, Italy, to serve the Army’s 173rd Brigade Combat Team, which is involved in Afghanistan operations.
“My tour is for 90 days, ‘boots on the ground,’ which is the usual for Army Reserve physicians since the Gulf War in 1990,” he explained.
“I will serve as an Army staff physician to provide primary medical care to soldiers and their families who are stationed in Vicenza, and will most likely work full-time or more in the medical clinic on the base.”
Ard, 58, will provide medical care similar to his work at Kaiser Lahaina but serve a population of military beneficiaries at a U.S. Army base in Italy.
“As in previous deployments, I anticipate seeing some wounded soldiers to include PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but, for the most part, will provide primary medical care for all problems that soldiers and families present to the clinic with,” he said.
“Hopefully the flu will not hit too hard this winter there.”
The deputy hospital commander and chief of professional services with the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital in Fort Shafter, Ard said reserve physicians receive training in military medicine and war-related injuries.
Military patients represent a different population with unique needs, he added.
“Of course there are combat-related injuries from weapons and explosives, but orthopedic injuries and stress-related illness such as PTSD also take a toll,” Ard said.
The most serious casualties are evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where Ard served on a previous deployment.
“The military community has always welcomed me and appreciated the care that I have provided. The deployment experience has been rewarding to me, and that is why I am now leaving for the fifth time since 2004,” Ard said.
Physician deployments were shortened to 90 days due to the hardship on civilian medical practices with longer deployments.
After each deployment, Army Reserve physicians are protected for one year before being subject to deployment again.
Still, 90 days is a long time to be away from home.
“My family has been very supportive of my deployments, but of course we miss each other when separated. Fortunately, my deployments are relatively short to relatively safe locations, and telephone/Internet communication has been available,” he noted.
Ard and his wife, Jeanet, have two daughters. Hayley is 23 and currently in London, and Stacey, 9, who was born on her dad’s birthday, is a fourth-grader at King Kamehameha III Elementary School.
“At the conclusion of my first deployment to Germany, my family joined me for a two-week tour of Europe, so the first Disneyland that my youngest daughter went to was in Paris. My oldest daughter graduated from Oxford University last year and is now working on her Master’s Degree in London, so my deployments have actually facilitated more visits with her,” Dr. Ard said.
“I have actually been notified twice that I was being deployed to Iraq or Kuwait, but the orders were subsequently changed by the Army and not by my request.”
He is slated to return to work at Kaiser Lahaina in mid-February, 2010, and the end of his military career is in sight: July 2010.
“It has been a privilege and opportunity to serve in the Army for the past 35 years, but my mandatory retirement date comes in the summer of 2010,” he commented.
“I have enjoyed my service in the Army and the camaraderie provided by soldiers everywhere that I have been.”
He has also devoted one weekend a month since 1997 to the Army Reserve. Most months, he flies to Honolulu to work at the 1984th U.S. Army Reserve Hospital at Fort Shafter.
He first enlisted in the Army in 1974 as a medic and became interested in medicine during his service.
In 1984, Dr. Ard completed medical school at Michigan State University as an Army Health Professions Scholarship Program recipient.
He has held six enlisted and six officer ranks and has served six years of active duty overseas in Korea and Germany.
“Now, many of the soldiers that I take care of were born 10-15 years after I first joined the Army,” Dr. Ard said.
He’s worked full-time at Kaiser Lahaina since the fall of 1995. He hopes his patients will see this article and understand why he vanishes for months at a time.