Women in Uniform
SSG Kay Lynn Brunt
Kay Lynn Brunt is a five-time member of the World Taekwondo Association (WTA) USA National Team, a registered nurse at CHI St. Vincent in the nursery, and a health care specialist, or medic, and staff sergeant in the Army National Guard. She’s set to travel to Kuwait this month for her first overseas military deployment.
Brunt was attending National Park College when she began seriously considering a career in the military. She drove past a recruiting office every day on her way to school and finally made the decision to stop and speak to someone about her options.
“It was something I had thought about doing since I was in high school but I didn’t think I could do the running and all that,” she said. “I just stopped in and asked because I didn’t know much about it, and it just kind of happened from there.”
Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri is where she completed her basic training — nine weeks of training and an extra week of reception, paperwork and administrative tasks before the soldiers were sent out to their individual companies. Brunt went from Fort Leonard Wood straight to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, to begin medic training. She had already graduated nursing school when she joined the Army.
“I feel honored and proud to serve my country. Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military. Some just don’t want to, and that’s fine; it’s not for everyone. There are many that would do anything to join but just don’t qualify for one reason or another. When I think about those people I almost feel privileged to be able to serve and will do it as long as I can,” said Brunt.
Though she only keeps in touch now with one person she met in basic training, when asked what she likes about being in the military, Brunt said, “I have met some great people. The Army usually ends up taking you separate ways at one point or another but you always carry the memories and the lessons learned. The people in my current unit have truly become like family, especially as we have been getting ready to deploy. I know I have made some lifelong friendships.”
Brunt said her experience in basic training was harder on her mentally than physically — even the gas chamber “wasn’t as bad as they make it out to be,” she added.
“It is hard physically but they kind of build you up. They start off small and build you up physically, but the mental part of it is tough, just being away from your family and everything,” she said. “I didn’t have kids at that time, but just leaving home, and there’s not much communication. But, a few weeks into it, they kind of become your family, somewhat, and you just get used to what you’re doing and it’s OK after the first few weeks.”
Brunt’s duty station is in North Little Rock at Robinson Maneuver Training Center, or Camp Robinson, where she goes for training one weekend per month.
Formerly a cadre, or instructor, Brunt once worked at a unit in Hot Springs teaching newly joined men and women about what to expect in basic training, preparing them physically, mentally and administratively for the road ahead.
“Most of them are 17-18 years old, but we do have people that are older. It’s kids that have joined and don’t leave for basic for anywhere from two to eight to nine months, so every month we would have drill for them. I did that for a long time. They’ve already joined, they know they’re going to basic training and they’ve got a date that they leave, they just have some time in between,” she said.
As a section leader for the medical section of her company, Brunt will have nine medics working under her during her deployment in Kuwait.
“We will essentially run a medical clinic over there for our soldiers,” she said. “We fall under the 77th combat aviation brigade; we fall under them, and I think nine other states have companies that fall under them, so we’ll all meet up down at Fort Hood and we’ll all be over there together. We’ll run the clinic for those guys that just don’t feel good, sprained ankles, regular stuff you’d go to the doctor’s office for.”
Brunt said that medics are generally the first line of medical treatment for injured soldiers, but on the civilian side their scope of practice is limited. After basic training she went through an NREMT program, which is an EMT program, and a combat medicine program with an emphasis on battlefield trauma.
“We hold an EMT certification and can operate in that capacity, but on the military side we are expected to be able to do anything from check a temperature to perform a surgical cricothyrotomy, which is making a hole in somebody’s throat to put a breathing tube down,” she said.
Brunt attended high school at Second Baptist Church and graduated from Lake Hamilton High School in 2003. She has been taking Taekwondo for 23 years, but said that since she had kids, who are ages 6 and 3, she hasn’t had a lot of time for training.
“My son’s been doing Taekwondo for a little over a year and my daughter, we’re about to get her into gymnastics or dance; she’s 3 so she’s just getting old enough to do things like that.”
Madison Gardner, Brunt’s friend and fellow woman in uniform, said that Brunt growing up was “athletic, artistic, musical, smart — you name it, she could do it. I believe those traits are even more true now that she is an adult. There literally isn’t anything she can’t do and she makes everything look so easy,” adding that Brunt is free-spirited and kindhearted. Gardner served in the U.S. Navy from 2005-09. “Joining the military, for me, was sort of a last minute decision. I had many friends going off to great schools and I wasn’t personally ready to sign up for loans when I honestly had no clue what I wanted to do with my life,” said Gardner.
She went to basic training in Great Lakes, Ill. from December-February.
“For a girl from Arkansas, that was a rude awakening,” she said.
When asked what her favorite part of basic training was, Gardner said, “The friendships that were made. I had no idea at the time but some of those women would be some of my closest friends, no matter the miles.
“These are the people I lived with, ate with, hung out with and worked with. Nothing can ever compare to the bond military members hold.”
She said her least-favorite part was “having to wake up in the middle of the night to iron every article of clothing all the way down to your underwear. Making my rack 10 times per day got old very quick. Anyone who has been to Navy boot camp knows exactly what I’m talking about.”
Gardner and Brunt have known each other since childhood, having grown up together since they were 4-5 years old.
Brunt and her husband, Chad, a corrections officer, have been married for seven years. She said this deployment will be the longest she has ever been away from her family.
“Everybody’s a little anxious but we’re working it out. These last two months have kind of helped to get us ready because I’m still somewhat here, I can still easily be reached on the phone and stuff like that now so it’s kind of gone into an adjustment period,” she added. “But, they’re doing fine, they’re surviving.”
“It is hard physically but they kind of build you up. They start off small and build you up physically, but the mental part of it is tough, just being away from your family and everything.” -Kay Lynn Brunt