The screams of the wounded echo throughout the combat zone. Blood from severed limbs oozes and gushes. Adrenaline pumps. These are just some of the horrors independent duty corpsmen (IDCs) encounter during their Navy careers. For now, it's training, but for students going through IDC "C" school at Surface Warfare Medical Institute Detachment (SWMI) San Diego, these scenarios will quickly become a reality, and they will have seconds to make life-saving decisions.
"Being an IDC is like being at the top of your rate," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Quitin Bright, a student in the course. Throughout their careers, IDCs train in a variety of medical specialties, such as nuclear medicine, medical diagnosis and treatment, and dive medicine. They then use their expertise at their commands, such as Naval Special Warfare, on ships and in Marine units.
According to some Navy physicians, IDCs embody the phrase "jack-of-all-trades." At Strategic Operations (STRATOPS) in San Diego, a facility used by SWMI, IDC instructors and civilian staff members take the idea of training like we fight seriously. They go above and beyond to create hyper-realistic trauma training scenarios for future IDCs. To become an IDC, hospital corpsmen (HM) must volunteer and be between the rank of second class and chief.
"The reason we train like this is that at one point in an IDCs career, they will have someone's life in their hands," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Shane Picklesimer, program director for the Surface and Dive IDC Program.
IDC students arrive at the facility to find an unprepossessing group of warehouses. Behind the buildings, however, corpsmen will find a scene similar to a disaster movie set, complete with a replica MV-22 Osprey aircraft, flipped over helicopters and burned-out vehicles.
"This training is so realistic it gives me goosebumps," said Picklesimer.
STRATOPS consists of two days' worth of training, some in classrooms, but primarily in the field, using scenarios that pull heavily from instructors' own experiences in the fleet.
The first scenario is an emergency room, which is designed to teach students about prolonged care. During this station, IDC students care for one patient with one medical officer for two hours, simulating a full 24-hour time frame.