On Friday, Bel Air-based surgeon Dr. Geoff Bloomfield will start his deployment to Afghanistan, the theater where the U.S. military has prosecuted a nearly 15-year war – the longest war in the nation's history – against the Taliban.
"Afghanistan and Pakistan is really where all of this originate, and if we leave now I think that Afghanistan will revert back to a completely failed state," Bloomfied, who is a colonel in the Army Reserve, said.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001 to strike the al-Qaida terrorist network responsible for the 9/11 attacks, plus the hard-line Islamic Taliban government that ruled the country and sheltered al-Qaida militants.
American troops remain in Afghanistan, 15 years after 9/11, still fighting the stubborn Taliban and supporting their Afghan government allies.
Bloomfield, 50, gathered MaGerk's Pub and Grill in Bel Air with his family and colleagues at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center last Friday night for a send-off party, held some 36 hours before the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks on U.S. soil that triggered the war he is now going to be part of.
Bloomfield is a partner with Harford Surgical Associates, a general surgery practice affiliated with Upper Chesapeake. His partners, Drs. Scott Steinmetz and Lee Fraiji, were present, along with about 50 nurses and hospital staffers.
Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of Upper Chesapeake Health, also attended and wished Bloomfield well.
Bloomfield said he was "amazed and touched by the outpouring of appreciation and well wishes and good feelings."
The Baltimore County resident will be a trauma surgeon with a forward surgical team, treating wounded troops.
"Our job is really just to stabilize and then send them back to the rear to a higher level of care," he said.
Bloomfield has been a surgeon for 16 years, nine of them with Upper Chesapeake. He joined the reserves in 1992 when he was going through his medical residency training.
"I saw what my salary was going to be as a resident, and I thought that I would join the reserves and get a little extra money and serve my country at the same time," he said.
He will leave for Ft. Bliss, Texas, Friday for pre-deployment training, and he is scheduled to return in January. This will be his first overseas deployment, although he has been on active duty stateside in the past.
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"We want him to return to us in his usual fashion," Marie Weimer, an operating charge room nurse, said.
Steinmetz said his partner is "a good guy doing what he needs to do."
He stressed that patients at Harford Surgical Associates should expect the same level of care, even in Bloomfield's absence, as other surgeons will be on hand to cover the patient load.
"The same excellent care they expect from Upper Chesapeake will still be provided, every patient, every patient encounter and every day," he said.
Bloomfield will spend this week at home with his wife, Linda Alexander, who is an OB-GYN at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore County, and their two sons, who are 18 and 22 years old.
They met in college and have been married for 25 years, Alexander said.
"I'm very proud of him," Linda Alexander said. "I'm a little nervous – I think he'll do great over there, but I'll miss him."