View Full Version : Company B's Christmas: Corpsman dons many hats for Company B

01-10-07, 10:48 PM
January 10. 2007 6:59AM

Company B's Christmas: Corpsman dons many hats for Company B
'Doc Sling' does much more than keep Marines alive.

Tribune Staff Writer

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Mark Slingerland admits he'd prefer not doing his job. The Navy petty officer 2nd class is one of Engineer Company B's corpsmen.

"If I'm working, people are hurt. So I kind of like not to work," the South Bend resident said.

Navy corpsmen have special medical training and provide some medical care for Marines and sailors.

Doc Sling, as he's affectionately known, doesn't tend to many wounds, but the company commander, Maj. Mark Boone, of Medford, Ore., said Slingerland does more than his share.

"One of the things amazing about the corpsmen is that it would be perfectly OK if they just simply worked inside the capacity of their MOS (military occupational specialty). But neither of our corpsmen does that.

"Doc Sling worked in the Buffalo (a heavily fortified vehicle) during route clearance missions and really became a key person in that vehicle. He had a natural ability to see what didn't look natural, and he was an IED (improvised explosive device) hound. He found a lot of IEDs. The next thing you know, he's operating the radio ... then he becomes the scribe."

Slingerland explained that as scribe, he simply documented the mission -- "what happened, what we saw, what we did, points of interest. If we found a blast hole in the road, we'd document the size and where it was so we could bring another team in to fill the hole."

Slingerland typically starts his mornings and afternoons tending to Marines at sick call.

"It goes in spurts," he said. "The last two days we've had two people for sick call. A month ago we were seeing 10 to 12 a day for colds and things like that."

Teaching Marines the combat lifesaver program is one of his top priorities.

"We teach everything from foot care classes to basic first aid, bleeding management, IV therapies, and starting IVs in battle situations. We do mass-casualty drills, small-casualty drills, scenarios, walk-throughs, you name it. Anything to help the Marines take that next step when the situation dictates."

Since he is sometimes the only corpsman with a group of 20 to 70 Marines, Slingerland can use all the help he can get.

"It's no secret that corpsmen are targets," he said. "If we get into something serious, I need to have Marines able to take care of Marines or even take care of me, if necessary."

Slingerland credits medical advances with saving more and more lives on battlefields. "When I first came in during Desert Storm, we taught that if you're bleeding you put a hand on it to stop the bleeding and yell for the corpsman. Not so much anymore.

"Tourniquets aren't the newest, greatest thing, but they're the newest way of treatment. Before, if you put on a tourniquet, you pretty much lost that limb. Now, you put that tourniquet on and get them in surgery within six hours, and there's a good chance they're going to keep that limb."

Another lifesaver is response time, which has improved dramatically over the years.

"We're looking at 20 minutes from the time that we get a casualty until we can have a bird (helicopter) on the deck and on the way back to a shock-trauma platoon," he said.

"That innovation and that movement of medical knowledge that fortunately war brings -- it's made leaps and bounds in keeping people alive."