Originally created Thursday, June 21, 2007

Health clinic honors corpsman rating
By MC2(SW) Michael Wiss, Periscope Staff

The Naval Branch Health Clinic at NSB Kings Bay recognized more than a century of military service and honored those who have fallen before them during a celebration of the Hospital Corpsmen Rating June 15.

The cake cutting ceremony led by the most junior Sailor, HNSA Mark Burgett, and most senior member, retired Physician Assistant HMCS(SS) Fred Ewalt, marked the 109 years of military service excellence by U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsmen. According to NSB Kings Bay Naval Branch Health Clinic Administrative Officer Lt. Cmdr. Philip Wessel, the celebration allows the more than 23,000 Hospital Corpsmen in the Navy to remember and pay their respects towards those who died on the battlefield helping others.

"The hospital corps is a very tradition rich and proud group of people," he said. "It is not easy being a corpsman. People see us in the clinics and the hospitals, but don't know we are serving on battlefields with the lives of 30 Marines depending on us."

The Hospital Corps was established by an act of Congress on June 17, 1898. Prior to this, enlisted medical support in the Navy was limited in scope. In the Continental Navy of the American Revolution and the early U.S. Navy, medical assistants were assigned at random out of the ship's company. They were commonly referred to as "loblolly boy" a term that was borrowed from the British Royal Navy that alluded to the porridge fed to the sick.

The tradition rich corpsman has served in every American battle since 1898. During World War I, there were 684 personal awards issued to corpsmen, who distinguished themselves while serving with the United States Marines in numerous battles including Belleau Wood. In World War II, hospital corpsmen hit the beach with the Marines during every battle in the Pacific. In one of the most famous photos ever taken, Pharmacists' Mate second Class John Bradley was among the group of Marines in the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima. According to NSB Kings Bay Health Clinic Chief of Operation for Health and Medicine HMC(FMF) Kenneth McNeil, without the corpsmen on the battlefield, the troops would have a tough time taking the fight to the enemy.

"We cannot provide the security for this country without hospital corpsmen putting their lives on the line everyday on the battlefield," he said. "When you are out on patrol, it is your responsibility to keep the Marines alive. When they go down and yell "corpsmen up," you are running through the bullets flying at you to get to them."

The Hospital Corpsmen rate is the most decorated rate in the Navy. Throughout history they have received 22 Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Medals, 946 Silver Stars and 1,582 Bronze Stars.

Those serving on the battleground go through the Field Medical Service School at Camp Pendleton, Calif. and Camp Lejeune, N.C. This is specialized training, emphasizing physical conditioning, small arms familiarity and the fundamentals of Marine Corps life. Corpsmen who have received the warfare designator of Fleet Marine Warfare Specialist (FMF) are highly trained members of the Hospital Corps who specialize in all aspects of working with the U.S. Marine Corps operating forces. Attainment of this designation is highly prized among all corpsmen. The highly skilled members have no back up when they are in the field and many times are the difference between life and death.

"You are carrying all your supplies on your back," said HM3(FMF) Michael Fulton. "You have to rely on your knowledge, because it is being put to the test."

"You are held in high regard by the Marines," said HM3(FMF/SW/AW) Christopher Ferguson. 'You are one of them, a brother in their group."

"We have to know our job," said HM2(FMF) Al Watts. "When we are out there we are their first line of protection, their lives are in our hands."