What makes me look back to things I did 25 years ago and feel so proud and good about myself? When I read this column on Military.com last night, I was reminded of the guy in the picture below. Sure as hell looks nothing like me now. In a ville on Green Beach, Luzon, Republic of the Phillipines. One of the few pictures not lost by transfers/moves and time.
from the Marine Corps News Service
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan — Not every battle can be won. Not every Marine comes out of the fight unscathed. When a Marine finds one of his brethren down on the battlefield, he lets loose a call that has been sounded for decades. "Corpsman up!"
It was no different for two Navy corpsmen with 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, who were awarded medals Monday for their actions while deployed with Marines in Afghanistan.
Hospitalman Russel Crabb, a corpsman with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Medical Bn., received a Navy Achievement Medal with a combat distinguishing device for his quick reaction following an improvised explosive device attack.
Hospitalman Michael Bergeron, a corpsman with Company C, 3rd Medical Bn., was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his efforts to provide medical services to Coalition and Afghan forces while attached to an embedded training team during combat operations.
Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph, which depicts five Marines and a corpsman working together to raise a flag on Iwo Jima, captures the spirit and bond that forms between the corpsmen and Marines in combat.
Bergeron and Crabb see their awards as a result of that bond, one that begins long before the battlefield.
After completion of recruit training, corpsman move on to their military occupational school, known as the Naval Hospital Corps School. There, they receive their basic medical training. Unlike most other Naval occupational fields, corpsmen must go to one more school, the Field Medical Service School at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton, Calif or at Camp Lejuene, NC. There, they learn advanced field techniques they can expect to use when embedded with Marines. Skills include communications, land navigation, fighting positions, fire-team movements, patrolling, weapons familiarization and other tactics used in combat.
"This is where we get our first taste of the Marine Corps and what we'll actually be doing out in the field," said Crabb.
The mind set of the Marine Corps begins to take control of the corpsmen in the field service school and continues to grow as they spend day-after-day with the Marines. The relationship growth is mutual among the Marines as well, prodded along by friendly teasing and close-quarters-living.
The bonds remain as the corpsmen move on to their units. However, Crabb says being accepted into a new unit is not always easy.
"Some Marines are hesitant at first, but once you do missions with them, eat with them, break down weapons with them, sleep next to them and hike with them, you just kind of become one of them," Crabb said. "We do what they do as well as the medical stuff so they respect that."
Cpl. Ruben Vasquez, a motor transport operator for the 4th Marine Regiment who was deployed with Bergeron and Crabb said it didn't take long for them to become a part of the Marine brotherhood in Afghanistan.
Working side-by-side produces a transformation in the sailors where Navy blue mixes with Marine Corps green, forging a corpsman of Marines.
"We kind of get corrupted by the Marine Corps, and I like it," Crabb said. "The Marines are so geared towards getting out there and fighting the fight, it gives us a little more ruggedness."
Vasquez said the corpsmen pick up on their new life quickly and sometimes take the lead on the tactical side.
"When they're able to correct us on Marine Corps stuff, like radios and weapons, and at the same time take care of us on the corpsman side, it's impressive," Vasquez said. "We grow with them, because we share experiences and emotions with them."
While in the field, corpsmen are essentially Marines as they patrol, engage in fire fights, clean weapons and do all the things the Marines do on an everyday basis. The difference is the additional care the corpsmen provide for the Marines they fight with.
"While in Afghanistan, we provided medical aid to Marines, Afghan Army, coalition forces and Afghan locals and detainees," Crabb said. "We were doing what Marines do until someone was in medical need."
In combat situations, corpsmen are life-savers, and at the same time can be life-takers. They take and return fire. But most importantly, they listen for the words, "corpsman up."
"My mind set is on the patrol and if a situation occurs and medical assistance is needed you just switch modes," Crabb said.
"We had an IED go off, and Bergeron just grabbed his bag and took off," said Vasquez. "It's things like that, which show the closeness we have out there,"
During combat, a corpsman becomes not just a "doc," but a brother as well.
"If someone is shooting at my Marines I'm going to shoot right back at them," Crabb said. "That's like shooting my family members."
Being a corpsman is arguably the most dangerous job in the Navy, and is by far the most decorated occupation specialty. More than 20 Medals of Honor were awarded to Navy corpsman for actions during battles such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Whether it's in the jungles of Vietnam or Okinawa, the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan, at least one thing has remained the same. Marines know who to call on when they need help in garrison or on the battlefield.
"Having a corpsman is a relief," said Vasquez. "I don't have one doubt in my mind that any of them would've taken care of me no matter what was going on."