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 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, Borkowski is deployed in Afghanistan on Operation ATTENTION, Canada’s participation in the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A).
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.
Borkowski’s formal introduction to medicine was the First Aid component of a baby-sitting course she took at the age of 12.
“I always enjoyed the medical field,” Borkowski says. “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 in the Cariboo 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,” Borkowski says. “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.”
Borkowski is not the only Canadian Forces medic on Operation ATTENTION; most are training advisors working with Afghan National Army medical and support staff at the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences. Borkowski is not a training advisor, however.
“I serve in an integral support role, supporting our troops,” she says.
“This deployment has been different from what I had expected,” she says, 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.”
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 Edmonton where she and her fiancé will finish planning their summer wedding. Like 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.
Gary Hengstler is a civilian public relations and communications specialist employed by the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan as a training advisor in the public affairs section at the Kabul Military Training Centre.