Capts. (Drs.) Robert and Jasmine Ryu, husband-and-wife flight surgeons, make time for a date night at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Capt. Tristan Hinderliter / Air Force)
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan The flight surgeons from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., play a card game called Phase 10 at Heroes, a European-flavored coffee bar with leather seating, recessed lighting and exposed ceiling beams. Capt. (Dr.) Robert Ryu drinks hot tea. Capt. (Dr.) Jasmine Ryu drinks hot chocolate.
On this freezing January night at Kandahar Airfield, this is about as cozy as it gets. For the Ryus, married just a year, this is as close to date night as they can manage.
Robert, who works with F-16 pilots, arrived here in October. Jasmine, who is assigned to the 20th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, came two months later, just in time to celebrate their first Christmas as a married couple.
When Robert found out he'd be deploying with the 77th Fighter Squadron last year, Jasmine began looking for ways she could deploy, too, hopefully somewhere nearby, to cut down on their time apart.
The Ryus met at Officer Training School. He became a doctor sort of by accident, or default, depending on which way you look at it. He'd considered working in engineering with his dad, but found that bored him. He also thought about being a pilot. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he took the Medical College Admission Test. He did well.
She always knew she wanted to be a doctor. "I was the kid with the little science kit," she said. She also visited sick relatives in the hospital.
"I just liked being there," she said.
Jasmine is quiet-spoken, Robert, less so. The Air Force offered both the chance to do what they love and to also travel and meet people. Shaw is their first duty station. Kandahar is his first deployment and her second.
As flight surgeons, they essentially serve as the squadron's personal doctors. Robert also volunteers in the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar and flies on air expeditionary missions and medical flights.
"Taking care of pilots is very rewarding," Robert said.
The Ryus can't live together while deployed to Kandahar; it's against the rules. But they still make time for date night on Thursdays, usually at the coffee house, where shelves are stacked with board games.
"It's really cool having her around," Robert said.
"I feel very fortunate to be here with him," Jasmine said.
They recently celebrated their first anniversary here. Both had the day off. They played pool and pingpong in the morale rooms and had dinner at Mama Mia's Pizza on the base boardwalk.
Robert figures they'll be back at Heroes for Valentine's Day.