News: More than 30 years later, Navy commander “still loving his job”
Story by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – David Dinges has served in the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years, and after all this time, he’s still as passionate as ever about his job.
As a charge nurse currently serving at the NATO Role 3 Multi-National Medical Unit hospital, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, U.S. Navy Commander Dinges oversees the intermediate care wing of the hospital, where patients who are not considered trauma care casualties are brought.
When doctors make their rounds, they will provide a diagnosis, which in turn is carried out by Dinges and a team of nurses.
It’s a job he has been doing for a total of 32 years, one he “has loved every second of.”
“Taking care of our guys, that is the main reason that has kept me going and made me stay in this long,” Dinges said.
In his 32 years of naval service, Dinges spent the first nine on active duty, where he served in a variety of positions, including as an operating room technician, a dialysis technician.
He even worked in an animal lab.
Throughout his career, Dinges has been to a number of different places, ranging from Cambodia, Vietnam and Africa.
He has spent time in Landstuhl, Germany, where he says, “something I will never forget happened.”
It was there in 2008 when he met then U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry, who was brought in after coming into contact with insurgents.
After being shot in both legs, he fell, but as grenades came flying toward him, he picked one up and threw it back, saving his fellow Soldiers, but blowing his hand off in the process.
So who was there to treat him when he was medically evacuated to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center?
“I remember treating him, and he was in pieces practically,” Dinges said. “He was hurt badly.”
Dinges along with other medical personnel were able to treat and save Petry that day, before eventually sending him back to the U.S.
It wasn’t however the last time he would see him.
“There I look on the television alive and well, getting the Medal of Honor,” Dinges said, referring to President Barack Obama awarding Petry with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony on July 12, 2011. “That to me really meant something. I was able to help keep him alive.”
Dinges’ current tour of duty is not his first time serving in Afghanistan.
He served in the same job at Role 3 back in 2011.
That experience helped him adjust quickly to his current assignment.
“This time around I knew exactly where everything was and where to go,” he said. “It was great because I was able to help people out a lot.”
Dinges pointed out the biggest difference between his two tours in Afghanistan.
“Back then we saw a lot more service members, as that was the peak of the war,” he said. “But now that things have slowed down and moved into peacetime, we see less and less, which is ultimately a good thing.”
During the other 23 years of his Navy career, Dinges continues to serve as a reservist in his hometown of Erie, Penn.
It is there that he works as a hospice nurse.
Although his civilian and military careers differ in types of treatment, one thing remains constant.
“You are there for the patient, to give them help and give them whatever they need,” Dinges said. “Whether it is a service member or a civilian, you are there for them no matter what.”