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Ashlanders meet in Iraq

In a small world full of coincidences, two Ashlanders crossed paths in the Anbar province of western Iraq, a remote region 7,000 miles from the Siskiyous. The meeting took place on a Forward Operating Base which consists of only 150 people.

The circumstances for this impromptu meeting were purely medical.

Navy Medical Officers Lieutenant Commander Carter Maurer and Lieutenant Erik Nagel, both native Ashlanders, are in separate units: Maurer is an orthopedic surgeon with a Forward Resuscitative Surgical System; Nagel is with the third battalion, seventh Marines. Nagel had performed a 'closed reduction' (alignment of a fracture) on a Marine and placed it in a splint. Knowing that a FRSS (a mobile medical unit that sets up in areas within 30 minutes of potential casualties, consisting of a general surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, an anesthesiologist, a nurse and three operating room techs) would soon be in the area, he would have the luxury of an orthopedic for a second opinion. The orthopedic was Carter Maurer.

"When he (Nagel) brought the X-rays for me to review," said Maurer, "I recognized his last name and asked if he was related to Jim Nagel, Ashland High's football coach."

Both Nagel and Maurer knew of each other and know each other's fathers.

"Although I was a soccer player," said Maurer, "I pirated coach Nagel's goal setting manual that he distributed to all the football players. I still have the manual on my shelf at home."

Maurer also said that his father, retired orthopedic surgeon John G. Maurer, operated on Nagel's wrist and shoulder following basketball and football injuries.

Having graduated from Ashland High School in 1992, Maurer received both bachelor and medical degrees at Duke University. Nagel is the former 1998 all-state quarterback from Ashland High that went on to the University of San Diego and Torro Osteopathic School in San Francisco.

Maurer and Nagle are stationed in the Anbar Province, a barren region near the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Maurer described the area as "a little like the area east of Lakeview, Oregon; an area with little rain and temperatures that reach into the 130's."

Nagel said he is homesick for "trees and green scenery."

"Anbar Province is not the most scenic place on earth," said Nagel. "My base is on the Euphrates River, but you cannot see it with the berm built up to prevent sniper attacks. I don't suggest standing on the berm to see the river."

Nagel said that he could see Syria from where he was standing and it "didn't look much better."

The medical officers are both on seven-month deployments and will probably return stateside by early spring. Maurer is on his first Iraq deployment and Nagel is on his second. Nagel may have to "move a little east and see beautiful Afghanistan" before his deployment is finished. Maurer has about four years left in the military, Nagel has eight.

While together, they both 'worked out a lot,' discussed Ashland High sports and the changes in Ashland since they were growing up.

Now that hey have been formally introduced, Maurer and Nagel will definitely keep in touch, but much of that has to do with Nagel finishing his orthopedic training in a few years. Maurer said that Nagel will probably not have any time for friends while in residency. Nagel said that "He (Maurer) will probably not talk to me until I am done."

Both said they would consider moving back to Ashland to raise a family. Maurer is married with a three-year-old daughter; Nagel is recently engaged.

"I haven't ruled out the possibility of returning to Ashland someday," said Nagel. "I have gotten used to the big city life since leaving Ashland when I was 18, but it is a great place to raise a family, so I will definitely consider it when the time comes."

Maurer was a bit more wry on the subject.

"Both my wife and I love the northwest and I imagine we will stay in the northwest," said Maurer. "We will look to Ashland and see if it has any elementary schools left for our daughter and if there is a place to ski."

Both Maurer and Nagel are proud to be part of Ashland's contribution to the war effort in Iraq.

"The best thing about being here is knowing you may be doing a very small part to help out in this war," said Nagel. "My knowledge as a physician is being used to help Iraqi physicians get the supplies and medical equipment they need to help rebuild the countries healthcare system."