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Focus on Service

Just Doing My Job

HM2 Patrick B. Quill was awarded the Silver Star for actions during one day in Afghanistan

Pinned down by machine gun and mortar fire, without regard for his own life, he ran across open terrain to reach his fallen leader.

Shielding the injured with his body, he applied tourniquets to the element leader's arm and leg. Unable to carry him because of his own injuries, he dragged the wounded leader 75 meters to the cover of a ditch and radioed for a medical evacuation.

Awaiting the helicopter, he continued to treat the wounded. He and another Marine then carried the element leader 100 meters amid sporadic small arms fire to reach the medevac helicopter, and tirelessly maintained life support measures during the entire flight.

A Silver Star was presented to Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Patrick B. Quill for his actions in Afghanistan that day. But for Quill, it never has and never will be about ribbons or medals.

"I was awarded for doing my job in a bad situation," said Quill, a Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman (SOIDC.) "I didn't think I deserved it but someone thought I did."

Quill graduated from high school in June of 2006 with a plan. He knew he was going to enlist in the Navy the following September.

"I'd known for a while that I was going to join the Navy because my father was in the Navy," said Quill. "It's something I had always been interested in and I wanted to serve my country. I also figured it would probably be a good way to grow up."

Quill's father was a Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (Surface Independent Duty Corpsman), and Quill wanted to follow in his footsteps. Quill's grandparents were also corpsmen. So Quill's felt he was destined for this path.

"All I wanted was to be a recon corpsman," said Quill. "Since it was a hard billet to fill at the time, the detailer said 'I'd rather have a body to try this than no body at all.'"

To become an SOIDC you must complete HM "A" school and then volunteer during "A" school or Field Medical Service School (FMSS).

"If not, you missed your window," said Quill.

The SOIDC pipeline is a rigorous course that includes more than 18 months of school before you head to your next command.

The 18 months of school include: Hospital Corpsman "A" School (6 to 12 weeks), Field Medical Service School (FMSS) (5 weeks), Basic Reconnaissance School (12 weeks), Marine Combat Dive School (8 weeks), Dive Medicine School (5 weeks), Basic Airborne School (3 weeks), Special Operations Combat Medic Course (24 weeks) and Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman Course (24 weeks).

If a participant fails to meet the criteria of the courses they are sent to the fleet as a regular corpsman.

The months were long and filled with several moments of self-doubt, according to Quill.

"You're stressed and nervous ... you want to do well and hope you have what it takes," said Quill.

And Quill did.

"[My father] once told me that he was the only IDC on a [small ship] and had a direct line of communication to the commanding officer," said Quill. "There was a Sailor who had appendicitis. He was telling me that as a Chief he had the responsibility of going to the Skipper and briefing him. He said 'I'm telling you we need to this get this Sailor off the boat or he is going to die.'"

Quill remembered how cool he thought that was; to have that much influence, to supersede the chain of command and to save a life. Above all, to save a life, which is exactly what Quill would end up doing while attached to the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion.

"In Marine Special Operation Team (MSOT) you're in a very unique position, because while deployed you are the sole medical provider for this team of individuals," said Quill. "You're responsible for their routines and emergencies - you're the 'Doc' for this team and they trust you."

Quill and his unit were conducting operations in Afghanistan when his element leader was mortally wounded by an improvised explosive device.

Quill observed the situation and rendered aide to his element leader.

"With the training I had, I knew what I had to do," said Quill. "It's like driving a car. You already know what to do: put your seatbelt on, check your mirrors and then drive. That's what I did. I saw him on the ground and I started to drive."