Special Op CRNA Deploys to War Zone 9 Times, Saves Lives 


Jim Reed, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) who served in the U.S. Army for 27 years, was deployed nine times to Afghanistan and Iraq as the sole anesthesia provider for America’s most elite special operations unit.

After beginning his military career as a young medic, Jim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in nursing, He graduated first in his class from the U.S. Army graduate program in anesthesia nursing--a 30-month master’s program. Today, most new CRNAs complete 36 months of training at the doctorate level.

He was accepted into the special operations medical unit one week before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Three weeks later Jim was in the Middle East, working independently as the anesthesia care provider and saving lives of elite soldiers in his special operations unit.

“Thanks for saving my life,” is an accolade he’s heard many times. In one instance, a special operations soldier was critically injured while on the Iraq-Syria border more than 200 miles from the nearest hospital. Jim gave him multiple transfusions on the ground and in a helicopter that came under enemy fire.

Jim provided soldiers the best possible care on the worst day of their life, something he hopes would be done for his children if necessary—his son a commissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and his daughter a third-year cadet at West Point.

Retiring from the Army in 2011, Jim is now a CRNA for a regional hospital in Pinehurst not far from where his special ops unit was stationed in Fort Bragg. As a civilian, he doesn’t have the same scope of practice as he did in the military.

“My colleagues and I were very well-trained. The fact that I worked in an elite special operations unit displays the confidence our government has in the competency of CRNAs,” he said. “If my skills were good enough to help soldiers at the most elite levels, I’m qualified to administer that same high-quality care to patients now that I’m retired.”

Jim volunteers with the Special Operations Medical Association, which works to advance the art and science of special operations medical care through the education and professional development of special operations medical providers, and he is a member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, where he’s lobbied in Washington, D.C. for veterans’ suicide prevention.

“I went to war nine times to save lives and to find out we’re losing so many here due to suicide is tragic and heartbreaking. My mission in that regard never expires and advocating for veterans is something I will always do,” Jim said.

Today, he seeks his Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Duke University to teach future CRNAs.

“I want the public to know that they’re in great hands if they have a CRNA taking care of them.”

On Tuesday, May 24, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a proposed rule to extend full practice authority to CRNAs and other advanced practice registered nurses serving in the VA, triggering a 60-day public comment period. Please visit www.veteransaccesstocare.com to advocate and inform U.S. legislators of the competency, training and expert care CRNAs possess to independently perform anesthesia in VA facilities across North Carolina.