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Corpsmen experience challenges of assignment with Marines

16 Dec 2002 | Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Misfeldt 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

There are many different ratings in the Navy, but few work as closely with the Marines as the hospital corpsmen do. They are the lifesavers and healers of the Marines sent into combat.

The Corpsmen assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) consider this duty a unique opportunity to hone their skills and integrate fully with the Marines.

"We train with the Marines," said Petty Officer 1st Class Zachary Hare, hospital corpsman, command element, 24th MEU (SOC). "That helps us to know what they are doing.   In case one of them goes down, we know what to do and how to properly react."

The corpsmen who are assigned to the MEU or any Marine unit must go through additional training before reporting to their respective units.

"Every corpsman who is assigned to a Marine unit must go through an extra two months of school before ever coming here.  They must attend Field Medicine Service School, where they receive additional training on medicine, sanitation, and an introduction to things they would encounter while on assignment with the Marines," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Marrisa Mueller, a hospital corpsman assigned to the MEU Service Support Group.

In addition, independent-duty hospital corpsmen who are assigned to a particular unit and work by themselves go to school for an additional year to get training on a more advanced level, according to Hare.

"I had to go to trauma school to basically learn what a doctor or surgeon would know," said Hare. "Out here with the Marines, I have to be a lot more independent. Sometimes communication is not up and I have to administer a lot more emergency medicine because of the dangers of the jobs that Marines are assigned to do.  I have to be really good at trauma and emergency medicine.  The doctor may be further away than I know, so I have to be able to treat that Marine then and there."

The corpsmen are treated just as if they were Marines. They get down in the mud with the Marines, shoot weapons, live and eat with the Marines.

"This is work, just like anywhere else. If they go to the field, we go to the field. If they go to the firing range, we go to the firing range," said Seaman Dominick Breedlove, a Hospital Corpsman assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2/2. "This is important in providing medical coverage. I am assigned to the Battalion Aid Station, but if I was assigned to a line company, then I would also shoot and do the things that they do as well."

Working with the Marines is not required of every Navy Hospital Corpsman, but those who do are assigned to a Marine Corps unit are glad that they took the chance to come to the "Green Side."

"I enjoy this. It is quite different from what you do in a hospital," said Mueller. "A lot of people will never have this experience.  It is very hard for a female with MEU Service Support Group to go on a deployment, so I am very grateful for this opportunity."

"It definitely has helped my career to come and work with the Marines," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Lamin Foray, a Hospital Corpsman assigned to the BLT.  "I have had the opportunity to get my Fleet Marine Force warfare pin, and I have been able to go to so many more schools since I have been here - more so than when I was on shore duty."

There are also differences in what hospital corpsmen do in the field and what they would do on a ship.

"Mostly, on a ship, you are worried more with your sick call type medicine," Hare said. "The Marines, a lot of times, come out here to the field, and there is nothing here.   They have to build something from scratch.  They are expeditionary, so they have to be able to tear it down just as fast as they put it up so they can move on to the next place.  Plus, they are constantly out there on the "tip of the spear," where they can get shot at, cut, fall down, or any of the wildlife out here could attack them as well the enemy.  As corpsmen, we have to able to help these guys at a moment's notice."

According to Foray, not all hospital corpsmen have had the opportunity to work with the Marines, but the ones who have served with the "Green Team" say it was well worth it.

"You have to do a stint with the Marines," said Foray. " There is so much stuff out there that you would never know if you did not come out with the Marines. You do so much more when you are deployed with the MEU.  You learn about so many different scenarios that you would never even think of if you were on a ship or in a hospital. I think that to be a well-rounded corpsman you need to work both in a hospital and with the Marines."