SAN DIEGO — When Navy reservist Dr. Carmen James Corrall was called to serve in Operation Desert Storm last January, he did not want to go.
His assignment to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego meant leaving his wife behind in Irvine. It also meant trading his $12,000-a-month job as director of a hospital emergency room for a $4,000-a-month position as a Navy pediatrician.
At first, the contrast made him homesick. Now, he is fighting to stay.
To the surprise of many, Corrall is one of scores of reservists vying for the chance to "go native." Having been thrust into new, challenging environments, these men and women have adapted and thrived. Now they want to remain on active duty.
Of the 10,000 Navy reserve doctors and medical personnel pressed into service during Operation Desert Shield, 589 have asked to remain on active duty. Only 147 requests have been approved because budgetary constraints are forcing the Navy to trim its ranks.
Other branches of the armed services are seeing similar requests, officials said. To support the Persian Gulf conflict, the Army called up 85,000 reservists. Now, 600 have applied to remain on active duty and the Army has accepted 125.
Military officials, who expected reservists to tire of dormitories, "mess" food, and the financial strain often associated with deployment, did not anticipate this small group of enthusiasts. Even among those who have returned to civilian life, few have opted to leave the reserves--not yet anyway, said Cmdr. Steve Clawson, spokesman for the chief of naval personnel in Washington.
"The reservists are not all bailing out," said Lt. Col. Ronald Wolfe, an Army spokesman, a reservist who left his San Francisco home to serve in Washington. "If anything, (the Gulf War) will attract more. It can be a very, very positive thing. The trade-off is that history was made and you were a part of it."
Corrall and 21,100 Navy reservists heeded the call to duty, bidding farewell to families, jobs and the comforts of home during the course of the U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf.
About half of those summoned were, like Corrall, medical personnel. About 1,200 are still plying their trade on behalf of their country, Clawson said.
Some reservists appear to be enduring a disproportionate share of marital strife, alcoholism and anxiety from the war.
Others, such as Maj. Hector R. Fernandez, suffered financial loss. A San Diego anesthesiologist, he figures his three-month stint cost him about $50,000 in lost income.
But many laud their stint as a time of self-discovery and adventures that led to improvements in their marriages and family relationships.
"In coming back, I was no longer willing to resume the same role," said Army reserve Lt. Col. Susan Simpson, a San Diego registered nurse who deployed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in December. "I told my husband: 'You know where the grocery store is now, you know how to use the washer and dryer.' There was a real realignment of family roles."
Simpson so enjoyed her deployment that she was hurt when Army officials said they could not offer her the chance to become active duty again because they have no room for more officers.
"I was good enough to go to war but now they don't want me," said Simpson, who returned to her civilian nursing job in April.
For David Jackson, the military provided--rather than threatened--his livelihood. Jackson, 30, a Navy reservist hospital corpsman, has opted to remain on active duty.
Jackson was 22 days into his civilian nursing school semester in Arlington, Tex., when he was called up and assigned to San Diego's naval hospital. He eagerly packed his family's few belongings and reported for duty Feb. 14.
"If you asked me if I wanted to go to school or fight in a conflict, I wanted to fight in a conflict," said Jackson, who joined the reserves 18 months ago. Jackson was disappointed that he was thousands of miles from the front lines.
As he heard from more and more civilian friends who were losing jobs as the economy flattened in Texas, Jackson began to realize that he had a good deal.
"With this job, I can say I will be here tomorrow," Jackson said. "It's tight in the civilian world. I'm not saying the Navy is easy--it's not."
Edward Calix, 37, a psychologist called up in January, found himself thriving in his newly assigned job. As a civilian, Calix worked with San Diego County's Mental Health Department and evaluated court patients and their mental competence. Often, he found himself face to face with killers and rapists.
When he started working with military patients, Calix realized he was once again enjoying his profession and his colleagues.
"It was the teamwork and the camaraderie," he said. "I don't know, I guess the Navy is kind of like in your blood."
It was much the same for Corrall. First called in August, he was told he would be assigned to a Navy base in Jacksonville, Fla. Because of a paperwork mix-up, Corrall was never dispatched.