GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- The Hospital Corps' premier training facility closed its doors July 28, following a disestablishment ceremony aboard Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill.
The facility has provided initial training to the U.S. Navy's enlisted medical professionals for nearly a century.
Rear Adm. Eleanor Valentin, commander, Navy Medicine Support Command and director, Medical Service Corps; presided over the ceremony and addressed Sailors, civilians and attendees of the important role the facility has played in training an estimated 4,200 corpsmen annually.
"Your students have gone far, saving countless lives in harm's way on the battlefield, on board ships at sea, and at clinics and hospitals across the globe," she said. "They have gone on to help shape Navy Medicine as we know it today, and they have made significant contributions to the establishment of the METC (Medical Education Training Campus), ensuring Navy requirements are met in the joint environment. We know that the corpsmen you have trained are well prepared with the right capabilities to support our war fighters and their families. To each of you, well done for carrying-on the traditions of excellence and commitment passed down to you from your predecessors."
More than 200 Sailors, faculty and invited guests attended the event which included remarks from Valentin and Force Master Chief Laura Martinez, director of the Hospital Corps. NHCS staff also rolled the school's colors - a tradition which companies or platoon-sized elements carry to signify their unit designation and corps affiliation for the final time, something Valentin said marks both a beginning and an end.
"Today marks the end of an era, so we pause to recognize the rich legacy of your past, reflect on your accomplishments, and highlight your future legacy at METC in Fort Sam Houston, Texas," she said. "Each of you have and will leave a legacy in the form of the hospital corpsmen you have trained. Your legacy is and will be training those who ensure the medical readiness of the greatest naval force in the world."
Naval Hospital Corps School Great Lakes Commanding Officer Capt. Theresa S. Gee echoed Valentin's sentiments, saying that serving as the commanding officer of the U.S. Navy's largest "A" School remains a definitive marker in her career.
"I have such respect for the corps; what they do, how they manage to do it and why they do what they do," she said. "This all began when I, as a young (lieutenant,) taught corps school in San Diego, and I feel my career has come full circle coming back to the school that made such an impact on me."
In 2005, the Base Realignment & Closure Commission announced the decision to disestablish Naval Hospital Corps School Great Lakes, and relocate all military enlisted medical training to Fort Sam Houston, something Valentin said will echo the shifting face of U.S. involvement in contingency operations around the world.
"Our history illustrates that we moved, transformed, and changed over time in response to and anticipation of how we fight wars," she said. "Our move to METC is another such move and transformation. When our Sailors and Marines in the fight are hurt, we apply all of our training resources to provide rapid care, and almost everything we do is in partnership with our sister services. This is how we fight today's wars, and that is why we are committed to one integrated inter-service education and training system that leverages the assets of all defense health-care practitioners."
Gee said the advent of the new training facility at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, will provide a unique learning environment while instilling a sense of pride and professionalism to what has become one of the most heralded ratings in the United States Navy.
"This does not mean that our corpsmen will not be corpsmen any longer," she said. "Each service is unique, and each must retain those things that make sense in their unique environments. It is important we retain what makes our corpsmen Sailors - our customs and traditions. I believe we can work side by side as corpsmen, medics and technicians doing the same functions for our patients in a standardized way to meet quality guidelines yet still retain all the uniqueness's that make us Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers. "
The Naval Hospital Corps School initially opened in January 1917, one month before the onset of World War I, and bears the distinction of being one of the first two schools established at Naval Training Center Great Lakes. The school was closed in 1921 after World War I, but subsequently reopened two decades later to facilitate corpsman training for U.S. involvement in World War II, remaining active since.
In 1997, the Navy's remaining hospital corpsman 'A' schools were consolidated and NHCS Great Lakes became the Navy's sole training facility for basic enlisted hospital corpsman training.
Navy Medicine Support Command, headquartered aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville, provides a single point of accountability for all support services within Navy Medicine, and exercises command and control, and financial management oversight over subordinate commands and ensures the economical and effective delivery of Navy Medicine enterprise-wide support services.
For more news from Navy Medicine Support Command, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/nmsc/.