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News | Feb. 5, 2024

Army Nurse Corps Officers at Munson part of 123-year Army legacy

By Maria C. Yager

Munson Army Health Center celebrated the 123rd birthday of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, Feb. 2, which included recognizing four of Munson’s own.

Lt. Col. Gwendolyn O’Keefe is Munson’s Deputy Commander for Nursing. She is the senior nurse manager providing oversight of all nursing operations at MAHC and part of the clinical leadership team.

“It has been a very rewarding 20 years. I’ve told my junior officers to take every opportunity in the Army and ‘grow where you are planted,’” said O’Keefe, explaining that one take away from her deployments is that you have to make things work, because sometimes lives depend on it.

Her assignments include traditional inpatient care at stateside medical centers equipped with cutting edge technology, to deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan caring for service members in the most austere environments.
She has even provided patient care thousands of feet in the air over the Pacific Ocean with a Critical Care Transport Team conducting aeromedical evacuation missions of critically ill patients back to the U.S.

Maj. Meredith Steggerda is Munson’s Chief of Public Health. She is an advisor on public health matters, promoting health and wellness to prevent disease and injury of Soldiers and military retirees, their families, and Army Civilian employees at Fort Leavenworth through workplace and community health.

During the COVID pandemic, Steggerda was assigned to the 32nd Hospital Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana, and deployed half-way around the world to the middle east on a Force health protection mission. She and her team were sent to monitor and care for service members and Defense Department civilians in the region against the emerging disease.

“We set up a contained mobile medical unit where we could care for patients and provide relief, evacuate those needing a higher level of care, and work to contain spikes in disease,” she said, capturing the essence of the Army Nurse Corps, providing responsive and innovative nursing care integrated with the Army Medical Team to enhance readiness, preserve life and function, and to promote health and wellness for all those entrusted to its care.

Maj. Courtney Pernia is Munson’s Chief of Ambulatory Nursing. She oversees primary care teams and programs in Munson’s Patient Centered Medical Homes.

“I always had a passion for nursing on my heart. I’m very thankful that I have the opportunity to support the Army’s mission to take care of Soldiers, family members and retirees. Nurses are well known as one of the most trusted professions across the country, and I think adding the Army name to that lends even more confidence,” said Pernia.

Cpt. Seth Hemker, currently serves in an administrative role as Munson’s Medical Company Commander, responsible for the training, management and readiness of Soldiers at MACH.

“What I like about the nurse corps is that there are so many things we can do, from direct patient care on an inpatient floor to company command positions, to recruiting,” said Hemker.

In addition to current requirements to join the Army, applicants for the Army Nurse Corps must complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing from an accredited college or university and maintain a license to practice nursing. As members of the Army, they must also maintain proficiency in skills common to all Soldiers.

The Army Nurse Corps provides nursing staff in support of U.S. Army and DoD medical plans. They serve in a variety of environments from military treatment facilities like MAHC to expeditionary units like field hospitals, forward surgical teams, and aeromedical evacuation units.

The diversity of assignments, while supporting Soldiers, retirees, and their family members, provides these Soldiers the opportunity to “be all they can be” and for them is part of the appeal of Army nursing.

To learn more about career opportunities in the Army Nurse Corps visit
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