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Duty Calls -- and This Time, It Calls for Haiti

February 4, 2010 By:
Aaron Passman
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Lt. Becca Short

Part of being in the military means being ready to switch gears at a moment's notice; late last month, Lt. Becca Short experienced that firsthand. The Richboro native works aboard the USS Nassau, which at the last minute was diverted from heading to the Persian Gulf and ordered to race down to Haiti to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need.

Short serves as the ship's medical administrative officer, which, as she said in an interview, means that she basically does "anything in the medical department that doesn't involve touching a patient."

Her position is similar to that of a hospital administrator.

Short, 27, wrote in an e-mail that everyone on the ship knew they would be seeing victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, and everyone had practiced for such situations, "but I don't know if any of us were expecting to see what we saw."

She wrote that the ship got its first casualty call within just a few hours of anchoring out beyond the island, and took on five patients via helicopter -- three adults and two babies. One of the babies, Short wrote, had to have a leg amputated.

She said that the two were orphans, and wrote that they were "getting lots of love and attention from the corpsmen and other sailors on the ship."

Much of Short's job duties entail paperwork and supervising medical matters, as well as keeping the ship's commanding officer informed, explained her mother, Ellen Short.

While the Nassau's original mission was a seven-month stint delivering supplies to the Persian Gulf, for the time being, efforts are focused on aid.

A Connection Through Dad

Short came to her position partly through a family connection: Her father had spent more than 35 years working for the Navy in aviation logistics.

She earned her bachelor's degree in health policy and administration from Penn State University, and said that she hadn't really even considered enlisting until recruiters came and spoke to her class about health-care administration in the Navy.

Short signed on for a program in which the Navy pays for two years of graduate school in exchange for eight years of service -- at least three on active duty.

Though she's in her fourth year of service, it's her first time working on a ship. Prior to stepping aboard the Nassau, she did a tour at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va.

Short attended Council Rock High School and went to services at Shir Ami-Bucks County Jewish Congregation in Newtown. She holds a master's degree in health finance and management from Johns Hopkins University.

Short got engaged last May. She met her fiance on JDate; he's a member of the naval reserves.

She said they visited Israel together a year ago on a Birthright trip, and she returned home determined to incorporate more Jewish elements into her life, including lighting Shabbat candles.

While she has long seen herself working in hospital administration, she observed that a ship is similar to a hospital, and wrestles with similar challenges.

"All the enlisted sailors I supervise come from all over the country and all over the world," said Short, "so sometimes, just getting people to work as a team" can be a "challenge."

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