Two weeks in the grassy mountains of Mongolia: Immersion helps nurse practitioner build global relationships 

members of the Army Reserve carrying an injured person across a field in Mongolia
Courtesy photo

In mid-June, Laurette Mangan found herself in the grassy mountains of Mongolia. 

Her trip had begun two days prior when she boarded a plane in Boston headed to Seattle. This was the starting point for her long journey to the East Asian country, during which she flew from the East Coast to the West Coast to South Korea and finally to Mongolia, where she would spend two weeks in the East Asian country.

Mangan is no stranger to working abroad. The nurse practitioner started her career in the Army as a nurse where she was stationed in Germany and South Korea. After over five years in the military, she left to become a reservist and used the G.I. Bill to study to become a nurse practitioner.

While most of her time now is spent seeing students at Northeastern University’s Health and Counseling Services, Mangan remains in the Army Reserves. In addition to doing drills one weekend a month in Taunton, Massachusetts, she travels for a few weeks each year for annual training. The location of the latter varies — the last few years she’s been sent to Wisconsin — but this year, she had some flexibility on where she could go. 

That’s how she ended up doing this year’s training at Khaan Quest, Mongolia, a United Nations peace training exercise going on since 2003. Khaan Quest brings in over 1,000 soldiers from 26 countries to train for peacekeeping missions and build relationships between participating nations. The training is held each year at Five Hills Training Area, located in the northern part of the country and is hosted by the Mongolian Armed Forces alongside the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

“Mongolia was one of the more interesting things I’ve done as a reservist,” says Mangan. “I learned how alike we are, the military as a whole. The military language is interchangeable. Some of the military jargon I usually used, I was surprised that other military teams use the same jargon and we were all on the same page.” 

Mangan participated in the training with the 399th Field Hospital. The 15-member unit provided medical aid to U.S. soldiers at Khaan Quest, as well as first aid field training to all participants. A typical day started with several hours of sick call in which Mangan and the other team members saw U.S. soldiers dealing with minor health problems. For the rest of the day, soldiers from different countries would rotate through classroom instruction done by her unit.

Each day was capped off with a cultural presentation from a different country. Many showed videos of their own militaries, as well as photos of their country’s landmarks. Some of the East Asian countries did martial arts presentations, while other countries had dance performances in traditional garb.

“Throughout the whole exercise, there was a lot of immersion,” Mangan says. “It’s a multinational training exercise. The main goal is to kind of integrate the countries so we have better working relationships in the future.” 

The team even got the chance to visit Ulaanbaatar for a day, giving them a chance to see the Genghis Khan Statue Complex on the bank of the Tuul River and to ride a camel. Despite being the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar felt remote, she says.

“The training area was definitely pretty,” she says. “There were lots of mountains and greenery. The food was rather repetitive. They served a lot of rice and meat. I thought we’d have more GI issues.”

One thing I’ve always really enjoyed about working at Northeastern is how global we are. I like working with students from various countries. That’s probably one of my favorite parts.

Laurette Mangan, a nurse practitioner for Northeastern University Health and Counseling Services

Mangan returned to Boston at the start of July, prepared to take on another school year at Northeastern. She says working with Northeastern’s wide-ranging international student population over the last two years she has been here aligns nicely with her experiences in the Army.

“When I was in the military, I was very geared towards broad international training,” she says. “One thing I’ve always really enjoyed about working at Northeastern is how global we are. I like working with students from various countries. That’s probably one of my favorite parts about working at Northeastern.”

Erin Kayata is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @erin_kayata.