A total of 24 years in the U.S. Army, including three deployments to Iraq, helped John Frasure, a physician assistant at Baylor Scott & White Clinic-Kingsland, develop a calm, reassuring presence whether dealing with a routine wellness check or an emergency.
“It could get intense at times, especially during the first deployment,” Frasure said. “You just, you know, learn to handle things and keep on helping.”
Frasure is one of the many U.S. veterans who have kept on helping by serving their communities even after tucking away their military uniforms. After retiring from the Army, Frasure decided to continue as a physician assistant, initially in the San Antonio area before heading to the Highland Lakes about six years ago.
“I enjoy the more rural setting out here,” he said. “There’s people who need medical care, and that’s what I enjoy doing: taking care of them.”
With six years of school and a master’s degree, a physician assistant handles many of the same medical issues a physician does. They can diagnose illnesses, manage treatment plans, and prescribe medications, among other things.
Frasure, who hails from Milford, Indiana, enlisted in the Army in 1988 hoping to get into one of the military medical fields. That opportunity wasn’t available until 1999, when he obtained a spot in the Interservice Physician Assistant Program.
That’s not easily done, even today. According to IPAP, about 300 active-duty service members, both enlisted and officers, begin the application process for the 29-month program each time it opens. About 100-120 applicants get interviews with the IPAP review board for 42 slots.
The current program has two phases: 16 months of academics at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston followed by 13 months of hands-on training at a military medical facility.
When Frasure entered the program, he was a staff sergeant, or E-6, but upon completion, he became a commissioned second lieutenant.
His initial assignment was with the 4th Battalion of the 64th Armor Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. He got up early to attend soldiers during physical training at 6 a.m. After that, he would be in the medical clinic for the rest of the day.
His routine changed drastically after Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States. While initial combat operations focused on Afghanistan, U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003.
Frasure and the 4-64th, which was on rotation in Kuwait prior to the invasion, was the first conventional U.S. force to cross into Iraq and roll on to Baghdad.
Along with treating soldiers, Frasure cared for injured Fox News and NBC reporters and local civilians. Once in Baghdad, the units took over and settled in and around Saddam Hussein’s palace.
One day, Frasure escorted a UPI photographer to the home of one of Hussein’s brothers. As the photographer was checking out the opulent palace, Frasure took a seat on a bed. The photographer snapped a photo of Frasure and submitted it to his editor, who was located in Qatar, along with his hometown information.
“I came from a small town in Indiana,” Frasure recalled, “but the photographer’s editor, she was from the same town, and she knew my parents.”
She sent Frasure’s parents a 16-inch-by-20-inch print of the photo in one of those “it’s-a-small-world-after-all” moments.
To prepare for the invasion, Frasure and his staff ran through a variety of scenarios of what they could face.
“You do your best to plan for the worst but hope for the best,” he said. “I leaned a lot on my (non-commissioned officers). At times, it was hairy. You just learn to focus on what you need to do.”
In all, Frasure and the division spent about eight months deployed in Iraq — the first time. He returned twice more before it was over.
In 2007, he deployed as part of the 82nd Airborne Division. It wasn’t as intense as the first deployment, but soldiers faced the threat of improvised explosive devices. Frasure said that, by this time, the military had upgraded its vehicles to better handle IEDs, but he and the medical crews dealt with a lot of concussions.
In his third deployment in 2010, Frasure was part of the 21st Combat Support Hospital. They set up in western Iraq, which was fairly remote. Along with assisting sick and injured soldiers, the hospital crew again helped care for civilians.
In the midst of his service and deployments, Frasure continued his education, including attending an emergency medicine residency for physician assistants.
“I think that gave me a lot more skills and a lot more knowledge,” he said.
Frasure retired from the Army after two decades of service but wasn’t done taking care of others.
He and his wife moved to the Highland Lakes, looking for a more laidback life, and Frasure found a spot at Baylor Scott & White Medical Clinic-Kingsland.
“I really love what I do and caring for people,” he said. “The military experience, I think it helped me in many ways, including (how) to remain calm. If you stay calm, the people around you stay calm.”
That’s important, he pointed out, whether tending a major injury or comforting a sick person who has questions and fears.