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thedrifter
08-05-06, 07:37 AM
TNCC classes may help save lives on battlefield
Navy corpsmen hone their medical skills at Thomas Nelson Community College.

BY STEPHANIE HEINATZ
247-7821

August 5 2006

HAMPTON -- It was late March 2003. Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Vause, a 27-year-old Navy corpsman from Florida, had deployed to Iraq with the Marines on board the Norfolk-based USS Saipan.

The U.S.-led invasion was well under way. Vause, after several days in the desert, found himself in Nasiriyah, some 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.

His unit soon came under fire. The ensuing battle lasted for four days.

Vause said he ran from one bleeding Marine to another amid the mortar fire, small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

He checked out their varied wounds and bandaged them as best he could.

Vause relied heavily on his combat medicine training. All 31 Marines hurt during that assault survived.

Vause says that while he always knew what to do, he didn't always understand why it had to be done.

That's changed now.

Vause is one of 32 sailors who will graduate from Thomas Nelson Community College's medical laboratory technology program Wednesday.

"I'm a more well-rounded corpsman now," Vause said. "I understand the body a whole lot more."

The program's main areas of study include analyzing the chemical makeup of body fluids, preparing blood for transfusions, identifying the source of infections and diagnosing diseases based on abnormal cell activity.

"You can't apply combat experience here," Chief Petty Officer Darren Wilson said of the program he oversees. "But you can bring what you learn here into the field."

Vause loves Marines. He always wanted to be one, he said, and always wants to help them. With this new training, he'll likely be taken away from the frontlines and placed with a fleet surgical team, where Marines go after a corpsman bandages them up.

His class is the 14th to complete the curriculum since the school received a Navy contract in the late 1990s to do the yearlong training. Seven months are in a classroom. The remaining five are at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

There are tangible benefits for the sailors, too. Twenty-nine of the students have signed on to serve another few years with the Navy. For that, they received bonuses totaling more than $500,000. And the credits they earn count toward an associate's degree.

"There aren't too many programs that allow you to go to school full time, get your degree and make money," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Candyce Clark, another graduate.

Added Vause, "If I have to transition (out of the military) into another line of work, I'll be better for it."

Ellie