Navy corpsmen: as expeditionary as we say we are;

7 May 2001 | Cpl. Thomas Michael Corcoran

The first combined shipboard exercise of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 8 took place off the coast of North Carolina May 3-10. They took part in the Phibron/MEU Integration Training, or PMINT, workups in preparation for their deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. This integration usually refers to Marines and Sailors with similar jobs learning how to work together proficiently in support of the mission. However, there are a few Sailors that Marines bring with them from the "green side." Hospital corpsmen are the Marines' adopted brethren. When they return with the Marines to the Phibron, they return to back to their first home. "A convenient place shall be set apart for the sick and hurt men, to which they are to be removed, and some of the crew shall be appointed to attend them," read a 1799 Act of Congress that eventually lead to the hospital corpsmen of today. Later, a 1916 Act of Congress, stating the rates and amount of hospital corpsmen the Navy should allow, specified service to the Marine Corps. Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Lawrence Ferguson, 26th MEU command element, and corpsmen from other units and squadrons can't focus solely on their own people when they're aboard ship. They use the ship's medical facilities and in turn help with sick call and other tasks that increase during deployments. "He's the highly motivated 'doc' from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines," said Cpl. Dave L. Frank, an assault man with India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/6, of his hospital corpsman, HN3 Arnaldo Melendezgarcia. Frank was having some tests done and had to have blood drawn. Because of the expeditionary nature of the Marines' corpsman, Melendezgarcia was able to use the USS Bataan's facilities to work on his Marine. This type of relationship between Marines and their corpsmen creates a familiarization and bond. This type of bond is built between Marines and the corpsmen on a daily basis. When Lance Cpl. Stalyn Gonzalez, 26th MEU command element administrative clerk, checked in to his duty station for the first time he went to his corpsman with complaints of a bump in his lower back. The bump turned out to be a cyst. Gonzalez had to have surgery to have the cyst removed, but the treatment did not end with the simple surgery, the healing process was longer than he'd expected. The wound had to heal from the inside, out. Everyday Gonzalez's corpsman had to treat the wound and pack it with solution and wraps. "They are one of those people whose job is not recognized," said Gonzalez. "People take them for granted." It is a safe assumption that the majority of Marines agree with Gonzalez when he said that although they are Navy, they are a very important part of the Marine Corps."Let's put it this way," said Gonzalez, "The grunts are always out there [training], but if it weren't for corpsmen they'd probably all be broke [injured]." Gonzalez also brought up another issue that, maybe, only corpsmen know the answer to. He said that many of the corpsmen he knows chose the "green side" over the "blue side" for a universal reason, respect. He said they feel they receive more respect from the Marines than from Sailors. Where Sailors see the person whose treating them as "just doing their job," Marines might see them as more of a friend helping them out. "We look at that corpsman as our fellow Marine," said Gonzalez. Ferguson explained that with the MEU his mission is "to ensure medical readiness at a deployable level." The Beaufort, S.C., Sailor said that for the MEU medical readiness is a vital aspect of mission accomplishment. So, as the Marines and Sailors aboard the ships of Phibron Eight prepare to patrol the oceans of the world, one thing will remain as it has for over two centuries -- where there are Marines and Sailors there are also their corpsmen.