By Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer
BREMERTON, Wash. – When Joseph Kahler was growing up in Mosinee, Wisconsin, he had an epiphany in the fifth grade.
“My oldest brother joined the Navy as a corpsman near the beginning of the War on Terror," said Kahler. "I remember not really understanding what a corpsman was until he returned from a deployment in the Middle East. My family went down to see him. A staff sergeant came over and talked to my father, tearing up while thanking him. After that I asked my father why he did that, and he started to tell me what a corpsman was and their relationship with Marines. That was the day I knew I wanted to be a Fleet Marine Force corpsman.”
After finishing Mosinee High School in 2011 and graduating from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with an associate’s degree in 2013, Kahler’s followed his brother’s lead. His Navy career began that same year when assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, Spain.
“Navy Medicine has taken me around the world,” related Kahler. “From being stationed in Rota, Spain, and being able to travel all throughout Europe, deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit and made port calls in the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, and went on a (Marine Corps) Unit Deployment Program to Japan.
After starting his career in family medicine, Kahler became an emergency medical technician (EMT), working in an emergency room (ER) environment.
“From there I was a line corpsman and then a senior line corpsman (assigned with U.S. Marine Corps)," Kahler said. "I work in a clinic here, as assistant leading petty officer of Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.”
For his efforts at his current position, Kahler has recently been selected from amongst his colleagues as Sailor of the Quarter.
“It was an honor to be chosen amongst my peers, the second class petty officers at this command are very competitive,” said Kahler.
During his eight years of service there have been professional and personal challenges as well as rewarding moments.
“Personally one of the most difficult things that I have dealt with so far in my career has been responding to sailors who have tried to take their own lives when I was an EMT and working in the ER," Kahler said. "The most gratifying aspect of my career has been watching the corpsmen I’ve trained grow, from gaining warfare qualifications, picking up rank, or watching them treat a patient. Being able to take a step back and see the progress they have made in their own lives.”
Assigned to a Navy Medicine platform, Kahler was an integral part of providing support to others in need, well before and throughout the pandemic.
“Being a part of Navy Medicine doesn’t always mean that you will be taking care of active duty members," explained Kahler. "Our position here at NMRTC Bremerton is so important because we also take care of dependents of deployed active duty members. This is crucial because those deployed can have the peace of mind that someone is here looking after their family and can focus on their mission.”
With the Navy surgeon general priority on operational readiness, Navy Medicine’s core mission is ensuring force medical readiness with a ready medical force. Kahler has continually contributed towards that requirement, including helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Yet, his position now includes mentoring younger corpsmen to handle a host of overlapping responsibilities, especially saving lives in any scenario or situation.
“My duty has been to ensure that my sailors are ready to leave this command with the knowledge and skills to go and be able to thrive on any platform in the Navy,” Kahler said.
From that youngster in the fifth grade with aspirational dreams to a mature young man continuing to make those dreams come true, Kahler’s career path has afforded him steady growth and the opportunity to contribute on a global basis, providing patient-centered care to those in need.
When asked what does being part of Navy Medicine mean to you, he replied, “It means being a part of something bigger than yourself, and being a part of the greatest team in the world.”
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