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01-09-06, 07:42 AM #1
Corpsman risks life, saves lives of two Marines
Corpsman risks life, saves lives of two Marines
2nd Marine Division
Story by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard
CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq (Jan. 9, 2006) -- Retired Marine Maj. Gene Duncan once defined Navy hospital corpsmen as, “Usually a young, long haired, bearded, Marine-hatin' Sailor with certain medical skills, who will go through the very gates of Hell to get to a wounded Marine.”
Though “long haired” is open to subjective interpretation, beards have officially gone the way of bell-bottomed dungarees in the Navy and levels of disdain for their brothers in green vary from Sailor to Sailor, most Marines and corpsmen find a level of truth in Duncan’s definition.
Take, for example, Petty Officer 3rd Class William Ojeda, a Miami native and the platoon hospital corpsman for Regimental Combat Team-2’s Jump Team. Young? Check. Ojeda shipped off to Navy boot camp at 16, having skipped a grade in elementary school. At only 21, he has racked up five years of service and three combat tours, two to Afghanistan and one to Iraq.
Long-haired and bearded? Well, as stated, the long hair is up for debate. However, no first sergeant would pass up the opportunity to take a pair of clippers to his head. As for the facial hair, Ojeda barely looks old enough to vote, let alone grow a beard.
Hating Leathernecks, especially those under his charge? That is unthinkable, considering how he used his medical skills when he walked through Hell to rescue fallen Marines.
On Nov. 9, Ojeda was sitting in the trail vehicle in an uneventful convoy when a roadside bomb ruptured the vehicle to their direct front. The deafening boom and rain of debris from the explosion caught them off guard.
“Everyone (in my vehicle) just kind of froze for an instant when it happened,” said Ojeda, a 2000 Miami Beach Senior High graduate. “But we responded within seconds.”
The explosion had a devastating effect on the up-armored vehicle.
“The front half of the vehicle was gone, the only thing left was the two back doors and the trunk, and it was burning,” he said.
The two passengers in the back emerged shaken and covered in diesel fuel, but with relatively minor blast injuries. The danger from the improvised explosive device, however, was far from passed.
“When I walked up to the vehicle, there was still an unexploded 155mm shell poking up out of the dirt. I guess (the insurgents) didn’t wire that one right,” Ojeda said.
Unexploded ordnance is an enormous threat. While faulty wiring prevented the shell from detonating in this instance, the age and unstable condition of the ammunition available to insurgents meant it could explode in Ojeda’s face any minute. Despite having a virtual time bomb only a meter or so from his position, the corpsman continued to orchestrate the triage and evacuation procedures to get the wounded on a medical evacuation flight.
First in line for Ojeda’s triage was the driver of the Humvee.
“I look down at him, he’s laying on the deck, and his legs are gone. I grab him by the handle on the back of his flak jacket and start to drag him,” recalled Ojeda.
The main and most serious consideration for this act is concern for the unexploded ordnance. No amount of lifesaving measures would have mattered much if they all suffered a secondary blast.
The drag to the opposite side of the remains of the vehicle was an effort. Ojeda stands about 5 feet, 7 inches, 150 pounds, he said, and “(the wounded Marine) is a big guy, over six feet, maybe 230 pounds. I got him about 10 feet then had to say, ‘Good enough.’”
While Ojeda applied tourniquets to the traumatic amputations and administered morphine, the gunner in the vehicle in front of the destroyed Humvee doused the flames in the charred husk of the destroyed vehicle. Another Marine, Cpl. Robert B. Schlafly, a Nashville, Tenn., native and gunner with the Jump Command Team, put his combat lifesaver skills to use, assessing and stabilizing to the best of his abilities the other two casualties.
The Marine in the turret got ejected from the vehicle while the other, sitting in the passenger seat, sustained broken cheekbones, two punctured lungs and multiple shrapnel wounds, according to an account of the events.
“Once I’d triaged all of them, I went back to (the driver) and just talked to him, reassured him everything was all right,” he recalled.
It was about this time that a second fire started burning in the vehicle. Ojeda looked to his left and saw what looked to be a brand-new fire extinguisher from the overturned Humvee lying in the dirt. He picked it up and began to fight the blaze that threatened the ammunition in the still-intact trunk.
“You know, with all the (injuries), I was pretty calm. But I really started freaking out about extinguishing that fire,” said Ojeda.
With the blaze doused, Ojeda resumed calling out orders, establishing a casualty collection point and communicating what he needed in the nine-line brief used for medical evacuation missions.
“It all happened so quickly. It was probably five minutes at the most,” Ojeda said.
The evacuation helicopters arrived quickly, about 10 minutes between the nine-line transmission and having their skids on the deck, said Ojeda. When they touched down, the pilot told Ojeda where he needed which patients. Though the two passengers in the back suffered relatively minor injuries, they would still need to be evacuated.
“The pilot comes out and goes, ‘I need two over here and three over there,’” Ojeda recalled. “The (litter-bearers) had already consolidated so I just told them which helo to head to.”
Schlafly reflected on his “doc’s” actions.
“Anybody who can keep their composure when they’re putting a tourniquet on their buddy’s legs … I don’t even know a word for it,” he said. “I guess I didn’t really expect corpsmen to be up there dragging Marines basically through a minefield.”
Attempting to put Ojeda’s actions in a historical context, Schlafly said, “I think its right up there with stories you hear about corpsmen in World War II and Vietnam, dragging guys out and saving their Marines under fire.”
Despite taking charge of a mass casualty evacuation and saving the lives of two Marines under his charge, Ojeda is at once extremely humble about his activities that day and fierce in asserting that he was just doing what corpsmen do.
“In Field Medical Service School and Hospital Corps School they instill this stuff into you. Plus, I’ve done mass casualty evacuations before,” Ojeda said, referring to his other tours to Afghanistan and Iraq.
When asked what it’s like being exposed to follow-on attacks while stabilizing seriously wounded Marines, Ojeda said, “I’d die saving one of these guys. I’ll be damned if I die sitting in my seat.”
01-11-06, 06:26 AM #2
RCT-2 corpsmen learn, work, play during ongoing operations
2nd Marine Division
Story by Cpl. Ken Melton
CAMP RIPPER, Iraq (Dec. 19, 2005) -- From head colds to large wounds, ankle sprains to broken bones, mole removal to removal of shrapnel, the Naval corpsmen with Regimental Combat Team 2 have seen it all and always possess the medicine for what ails their Marines.
Since deploying in February, the corpsmen have supported all of the operations conducted by RCT-2, whether major or minor, on the frontline.
“I love my job and it can be addicting,” said Zion, Ill., native, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan A. McNabb, a hospital corpsman. “Saving lives is what we do and we do it well.”
McNabb, like many of the other corpsmen here on their second tour in Iraq, takes pride in doing every aspect of his job.
“It’s definitely a big difference from being a field corpsman and hospital corpsman,” said Seaman Hipolito V. Avitia, a field corpsman from Albuquerque, N.M. “Here you have more administrative issues and you can always learn or get help from other corpsmen.
“In the field with the grunts you are the leading expert on everything medical and the added stress of being in a dangerous environment keeps you on top of your game.”
All the corpsmen go into the field to gain invaluable experience, but they also return to the rear to relax. The experience they bring back to the rear is a teaching tool for other corpsmen.
In the rear, they work at the regimental aid station where they also train and play sports to build camaraderie. They treat walk-ins, give classes on basic first aid, help keep track of injured service members and on their free time they trade war stories of past field operations.
“During Operation Steel Curtain, I was working at a displaced persons camp handing out food, blankets and helping run a clinic to treat anyone that was injured,” the 21-year-old Avitia said, telling of one of his experiences. “A bomb had exploded in the city and a kid had gotten injured so we had to stitch him up. It was sad and a little weird working on a kid like that, but I was glad to help.”
“We are so used to working with adults who usually indicate what is wrong with them and when you have a situation like that it’s awkward,” remarked 25-year-old McNabb. “I treated this little boy once and he wouldn’t stop crying so I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.
“Another ‘doc’ came up and knew immediately that he had in ear infection because he had children of his own. That was a learning experience for me.”
Sometimes age is not the only problem. When it comes to treating patients, the language barrier is the most common problem.
“When trying to ask a person if they have any allergies before you can administer medicines and they sometimes say ‘yes’ when they really mean ‘no’ and that can lead to deadly results,” Avitia, a 2001 Rio Grande High School graduate, explained. “Or trying to explain what you are doing or going to do so they won’t panic is a struggle that we all go through.”
The ‘devil docs’ policy to treat anyone within their means gives them versatility to treat all types of injuries to include dog, snake and insects bites.
Even through all the hardships, the ‘docs’ proudly proclaim their job to be the best job in their service.
According to Avitia, the best part of his job here besides treating patients is when he gets down time.
“If that happens,” he said. “That means no one is hurt.”
“Not only that, but you have one of the most respected jobs in either service,” McNabb said. “No matter what rank you are, when you’re a ‘doc’ you’re a ‘doc’ and everyone loves the ‘docs.’
01-13-06, 07:07 AM #3
Navy Corpsman enjoys chance to serve
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by Lance Cpl. Wayne Edmiston
CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 13, 2006) -- Being a hospital corpsman with Marines is different than most Navy jobs. They are inserted into combat zones right next to their “Devil Dog” brothers to ensure their health and safety. For one corpsman numerous challenges did not stop him from joining the fight and earning the title “Doc.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class David L. Brown, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), was committed to himself when he decided to join the Navy after speaking to a recruiter.
“I didn’t think they would let me join,” the 40-year-old Washington native explained because of his age. “I wanted to be master at arms actually, but they [said] I could be a corpsman and serve along Marines; I signed right up.”
Brown left his job as an auto parts store manager in Florida and left for Naval Training Center Great Lakes, Ill., for recruit training.
He than became a hospital corpsman and looked forward to serving alongside Marines after finishing Field Medicine School at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Being able to help Marines and Sailors out by having more time in the civilian life proved to be a valuable asset, Brown said.
According to the Congressional Budget Office’s Web site (www.cbo.gov), the average age of military enlistees is 19.
Brown faced some challenges at first keeping up with Sailors and Marines that were more than 10 years younger than he.
“It was hard at first but once I figured it out I just did what they did and joined right in,” he said.
Brown explained his love of serving with leathernecks.
“Helping Marines is what I enjoy,” Brown said. “When I help Marines I truly feeling I am contributing to the mission.”
Before serving with the Marines, Brown worked at the heart of Navy medicine at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland.
“I really enjoyed my time at Bethesda. I was close to home and learned a lot,” he said.
Being deployed to a combat zone doesn’t bother Brown, including being separated from his sons: David, Daniel and Aaron.
Brown keeps in contact with his sons through letters and the occasional phone call when he gets the chance.
“I love my boys, and can’t wait to get back and see them,” he said.
Another love Brown has acquired over the years is his passion for cars and specifically custom automobiles.
“I like anything about cars,” he said. “Fast cars, performance cars; I just love cars.”
His patriotic roots extend deep with family who have served in the Navy as well.
“I have two uncles who were in the Navy; It’s like a family tradition that I felt I wanted to follow,” Brown explained.
Brown is just one example of a “Devil Doc” in Iraq serving alongside his brothers Din the Marines, and at a later age felt dedicated do his part during the Global War on Terrorism.
04-09-08, 04:07 AM #4
Thank you for posting these up. I am Doc Avitia. Doc (HM3) Ojeda is a good friend of mine. We spent plently of nights under the desert sky on ops together. I am new to the site. I searched my name on google and it brought me here. Again thank you for sharing this with the Marines.
04-09-08, 05:06 AM #5yellowwingGuest Free Member
Welcome abord Doc Avitia! Thanks for watching over our Bros.
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