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Former Auckland nurse supports coalition troops in Iraq

As one of several military nurses supporting coalition troops in Iraq’s Camp Taji, New Zealand Army Captain Gemma Stone enjoys the challenges of working as part of a multi-national team.

Captain Stone works with three other New Zealand Defence Force personnel and 22 Australian Defence Force troops at the medical centre in Camp Taji, where 10-hour days and working after hours are par for the course.

The medical team provides primary, emergency and preventative health care to the estimated 310 personnel comprising the ninth rotation of Task Group Taji, the combined New Zealand-Australian training mission. They also mentor Iraqi Security Forces health personnel.

“I love working with personnel from other nations and meeting new people,” said Captain Stone, who grew up in Auckland’s Titirangi suburb.

“My day-to-day duties include seeing patients, preparing and delivering primary health education, attending work health and safety meetings and helping run our medical facility,” she said.

“It has been great to put my training to good use. By the time we finish our deployment here, I will have so much more experience to take back home.”

Being deployed was an honour and an important aspect of serving in the military, she said.

“I’m thankful that my family and friends understand the special requirements of my job and have been supportive of me.”

Captain Stone obtained her nursing degree and postgraduate diploma in nursing from the Auckland University of Technology.

She enlisted in the New Zealand Army in 2016, after working as a nurse at Auckland’s Starship Children’s Health centre and the Public Health Department of the Auckland District Health Board.

“I always wanted to join, so I decided to give it a go and have loved every moment since,” she said.

In 2016, she was part of the NZDF contingent that participated in the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris and marched down Avenue des Champs-Elysees dressed as a First World War nurse.

“I felt proud to represent not only the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps but New Zealand.”

In 2018, she went to Vanuatu to take part in Exercise Tropic Twilight, conducting health promotion activities and supporting the NZDF’s dental care and treatment programme on Epi Island.

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