Aboard USS Iwo Jima -- Corpsmen have played an important role in the lives of Marines for decades. Before Marines deploy, train in the field, or run the obstacle course a ‘Doc’ needs to be there, watching out for them. These green-side corpsmen are called upon to be able to hang with the infantry units they serve to provide on the spot medical care.
Since the beginning of the year when the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit began honing its battle edge for an up coming deployment, its corpsmen have been doing the same by studying and earning their Fleet Marine Force designator pins.
The FMF designation is a big deal for corpsmen and generally requires months of studying and practical application to retain all of the knowledge necessary to earn the pin. Corpsmen wear the pin as a device on their uniform, but it’s much more than just another uniform accessory.
“Earning the Fleet Marine Force pin makes you the technical expert in your field,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brady Freeman, a FMF qualified corpsman attached to Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion 8th Marines, 24th MEU.
The course of study requires the sailor to memorize every aspect of the Marine Corps, from the rank structure to the cyclic rate of fire of a M240 Golf machine gun. In addition to that they must commit to memory all of the Marine Corps history that Marines learn in boot camp.
“It’s a grueling process learning a 21-chapter book, verbatim, front to back, it’s a lot.” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brent Booze, 30, Somerville, Texas native. “We are learning the job of an everyday infantry Marine, things they would have their hands on, their weapons, their history, things they would do in the field. In-case we encounter any of the things they might encounter, we’ll know how to use their gear and respond.”
The Sailors study until they get their personal qualification standard books signed by an FMF qualifier. Then they are subjected to a test of nearly two-hundred questions. They then stand a board composed of senior enlisted Sailors in their field who ask them as many questions as they deem necessary, or until the Sailor shows them that he or she is FMF material.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Marlena Cox, from Jackson, Ala., is attached to the 24th MEU command element, and was presented her FMF designator pin during TRUEX after successfully meeting all of the requirements.
Cox says, “It took me a while to memorize all of the rates of fire, the weapons, vehicles and some of the land navigation, but I did it.”
Cox encourages her fellow Sailors who are working for their certification by telling them to stay motivated, “It was a long process and at the beginning I was thinking that it was too much work and that I’d never be able to do it. But I stuck with it and it paid off.”
The 24th MEU is currently conducting their Special Operations Capable Certification Exercise off the coast of North Carolina in preparation for their up coming deployment.