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Gaining Confidence Halfway Around the World

CPT Annie Gerhardt

Problem solving and quick thinking are two of CPT Annie Gerhardt’s best traits. As a nurse practitioner, she treats patients in rural communities where she doesn’t always have access to everything she needs. But the North Dakota Army National Guard (NDARNG) Soldier has learned to make do with whatever is available.

Gerhardt’s skills were put to the test in February 2016 when she participated in the Medical Readiness Training Exercise 17-2 (MEDRETE 17-2) at the 37th Military Hospital in Accra, Ghana. The mission was a joint effort between the Ghanaian government, United States (U.S.) Army Africa, NDARNG, and Brooke Army Medical Center.

The goal of the training was to prepare the team to work in a busy environment with limited resources, similar to what they might face during a deployment or mobilization. The team worked together to come up with innovative solutions to treat patients. In three weeks, they performed 86 surgeries and treated 337 patients.

Gerhardt’s experience working in a rural setting prepared her for tough situations. During her time in Ghana, she did several procedures that would normally be done by a surgeon in the U.S. As a result, Gerhardt gained more confidence in her surgical skills and in her ability to manage tricky situations on her own.

While Gerhardt had months to prepare for her time in Ghana, some Soldiers get the call to mobilize at a moment’s notice. Since her husband is also in the Guard, she knows what it takes to get ready for a deployment. She prepaid her bills and made sure her tasks were covered at work. She also wrote letters to her son so he would get one each day she was gone.

Gerhardt encourages other Guard families to focus on the positives while their Soldier is away, and to reach out for help when needed. “The Guard is one big family and its members are always willing to help each other out,” she said.

To keep herself mission ready all the time, Gerhardt makes exercise a regular part of her routine. From online workout videos to exercising with her family on weekends, she is also innovative in her approach to fitness. When she doesn’t have a ton of time, she focuses on what she can do. “Since push-ups and sit-ups take so little time, you can do them every day. There’s no excuse to let them slip,” she said.

Gerhardt is thankful for how much the Ghana mission taught her. She believes she has much more confidence in her medical skills and knows she and her family can handle anything that comes their way.

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