Years of patients: Nurse dedicates decades to Soldier care

By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Milnes | U.S. Army Africa | March 24, 2020

VICENZA, Italy —

A force to be reckoned with, U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Ann King joined the U.S. Army Africa and Southern European Task Force team for a yearlong tour in order to push herself outside of her comfort zone. Little did she know that the COVID-19 pandemic would happen mid-tour.

Dual-hatted at USARAF, King is both chief of clinical operations and chief nurse. She is qualified for each position with the education she has received throughout her nursing and military careers.

“Her depth of understanding of the complex world of medicine and public health have been instrumental in achieving success in a variety of missions in Italy and Africa,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Perry, the USARAF deputy surgeon.

King worked at a free clinic in Goldsboro, N.C., while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees of science and nursing from East Carolina University. Then she began employment at ECU while getting her doctorate of nursing from Duke University. In the midst of achieving her education and professional goals, she was also busy with her family and raising three young children. She continued her postdoctoral employment at ECU as an online professor for nurse practitioners.

Throughout the past two decades King has taken opportunities to serve a community in need of her skills and education.

Since 2007, King has completed 11 mission trips to Central America with her local non-profit group. For a week at a time, the mission teams provide medical primary care for a rural area in Nicaragua.

“Our teams have varied from 11 to 62 people on a given mission,” King said. “It’s a rewarding experience because we return to the same community each time and have built a rapport with them.”

Among the list of significant contributions, the team has equipped the area with water filtration systems and taught families how to provide their children with safe drinking water.

“We connect and engage with the community year after year and because of that we are able to watch the families and children grow,” King stated. “Our group stays in contact throughout the year and if local emergencies come up, they reach out to us with supply needs and we are able to gather and ship what they request.”

That desire to help and serve others, as well as growing up in military communities, eventually led King to join the military.

On September 1, 2011, King commissioned into the U.S. Army Reserve, continuing a family tradition.

“I always wanted to serve,” King said. “My dad did. Numerous family members are veterans. My uncle was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed; thankfully, he survived.”

Instead of taking a different path for her military service, she wanted to keep with health care. King has worked through various levels of commands. She was serving as division level deputy surgeon when the opportunity to volunteer through Tour of Duty came up. She applied for the one-year tour, bringing her to Vicenza to work for USARAF and enhance her knowledge while challenging herself and teaching others.

“She brings a wealth of energy, knowledge and experience to the surgeon directorate here,” Perry said.

And all of the energy, knowledge and experience has been put to good use while working at USARAF. King has kept occupied helping in the clinic, seeing patients as needed, traveling to Africa to complete assessments in several countries, and keeping up with her daily tasks in the surgeon directorate.

With the country-wide lockdown in effect, COVID-19 has kept King and her co-workers busy and brought travel to a temporary halt, but her spirit remains high and she still encourages anyone in the Reserve and National Guard to jump on these opportunities to serve abroad once the travel ban lifts.

“Get out of your comfort zone,” King said. “Serve overseas -- immerse yourself in the local culture, learn a new language and experience the food. And travel all you can while you’re there. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and will challenge you in ways you didn’t think possible.”