With a reassuring smile, she places the thermometer in the soldier’s mouth and tightens the blood-pressure cuff around his arm. “Most likely, you’ve got the virus that is going around the camp,” she says, “but we’ll check you out.”
Medical technician Corporal Christie Borkowski of 150 Mile House, B.C., is living the twin goals she set for herself in her youth — a medical career in a military context.
A member of 1 Field Ambulance in Edmonton, Alta., Cpl Borkowski is deployed in Afghanistan on Operation Attention, Canada’s participation in the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A).
Cpl Borkowski works in the unit medical station at Camp Alamo, the NTM-A camp co-located with the Kabul Military Training Centre, the Afghan National Army’s primary training base. Although she wears a Royal Canadian Air Force uniform, she has served with the Canadian Army for four years. She plans to make a career in the Canadian Forces.
Cpl Borkowski’s formal introduction to medicine was the first aid component of a babysitting course she took at the age of 12. “I always enjoyed the medical field,” said Cpl Borkowski. “I kept up with my first aid training all through high school, and I took some athletic first aid courses. I was part of a volunteer fire department back home for four years, both as a first responder and as a firefighter.”
Working with animals gave her extra experience. “I grew up near my grandfather’s ranch where I had to do a lot of veterinary-type stuff for the horses and cows,” said Cpl Borkowski. “It was great.”
Her family encouraged her interest in a military career. “Both of my grandfathers were in the Royal Canadian Air Force. With my interest in medicine, I just sort of fell into combining the two.”
Cpl Borkowski is not the only Canadian Forces medic serving with Operation Attention; most are training advisors working with Afghan National Army medical and support staff at the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences. Cpl Borkowski is not a training advisor, however. “I serve in an integral support role, supporting our troops,” she said.
“This deployment has been different from what I had expected,” she said, commenting on the workload. “I came prepared to treat injuries like they had seen in southern Afghanistan battling insurgents, but our mission is now in a training role. That means we see things like viruses and sprains — things you normally see back in Canada in a walk-in clinic on a base.”
Cpl Borkowski’s smile these days likely seems even brighter because she is nearing the end of her five-month deployment. By the end of March she will be back in Edmonton where she and her fiancé will finish planning their summer wedding. Like Cpl Borkowski, Private Adam Blackwell of St. Thomas, Ont., is a medical technician in the Canadian Forces.
It will be a mixed marriage however. He’s Army.