SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- By the time he graduated Mayfield high school in 1994, Las Cruces, New Mexico native, Phillip Marquez, wanted nothing to do with the military.
The oldest of two sons of a now-retired Air Force Master Sgt. Branch Chief, Marquez once told his dad, "once you retire, I'm retiring as well." But despite Marquez' efforts to put his itinerant past as a military child behind him and eschew military life, something changed, when in 2004, the young accounting major and recreational vehicle (RV) painter/technician made a snap decision to join the Navy.
"Outta nowhere I was just driving past a Navy recruiter and I just pulled over. I don't know what told me to pull over, but I pulled over, and everything went from there, ASVAB scores, all that stuff," said Marquez.
That sudden detour marked the beginning of a journey that would lead Marquez, now a Hospital Corpsman 1st Class at Naval Medical Center San Diego, to his most recent milestone as the Navy League of the United States, San Diego Council's 2017 Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Corpsman of the Year.
Brig. Gen. William Jurney, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego (MCRD), Western Recruiting Region, presented the award to Marquez at a luncheon held, Nov. 15, in celebration of the U.S. Marine Corps' 242nd birthday.
"The Marines will never deploy without their 'Doc.' I am extremely proud that HM1 Marquez was selected to represent our long history of Navy medical support to the U.S. Marines, Semper Fi," said Capt. Joel Roos, Commanding Officer, Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).
"Congratulations, well done," said retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Jay Lott, Executive Director for the Navy League of the United States, San Diego Council.
If you ever come across an FMF Sailor, you'll notice he or she is wearing a special badge over the left breast - the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Enlisted Warfare Specialist Device, or pin. It is a silver metal badge consisting of the Marine Corps' Eagle Globe and Anchor over two crossed rifles backed by two ocean swells branching out like wings. The words "FLEET MARINE FORCE" are centered below the globe, reinforcing the Navy and Marine Corps' expeditionary ethos lending credence to its design.
Behind every FMF pin covering the hearts of select Corpsmen is a personal story of expeditionary service in the Fleet Marine Force, hours of study, an oral board, and a written test covering skills such as weapons breakdown and familiarization, land navigation and radio operations. In some instances, an FMF Sailor is authorized to wear select Marine Corps uniforms. The badge and accompanying certificate are issued only by designated Marine Corps officers.
While the award is a distinction among a competitive pool of candidates, Marquez insists there are other Sailors who deserve the award just the same. "I've had my pin for a while, and to be recognized as FMF Corpsman of the Year is a distinction in itself, he said. "But you can go through a list of a lot of Corpsmen who could deserve the award."
Marquez served on three overseas deployments - twice to Iraq's restive Al Anbar Province with the Twentynine Palms, California-based Alpha Company, 1st Tank Battalion, in 2006 and 2008, where he employed his medical skills to save the lives of the Marines in his care. His third deployment was aboard the now-decommissioned U.S.S. Peleliu (LHA-5), as a member of the San Diego-based Fleet Surgical Team ONE (FST-1), where he provided medical services to thousands of Sailors and Marines in 2012, which included the 2,000-plus Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
When he joined the Navy, the recruiters offered Marquez several job specialties to choose from, but the life of a Corpsman is what ultimately appealed to him, for one reason - service with Marines. "They said, 'if you're a Corpsman, you have a chance to go with the Marines,' and I said okay, you have me."
Throughout his career, the broad-shouldered 41-year-old counts his time with the Marines as his most memorable. "There is a lot more camaraderie," said Marquez, emphasizing the special connection Marines form with the Corpsmen who join their ranks. "There's a special bond between Marines and their 'Doc'."
Despite Marquez' childhood dream of remaining a lifelong civilian, there were several omens throughout his young adult life which seemingly presaged his inevitable destiny. One came in the form of a stranger, an RV customer who happened to be a nurse.
"It was kinda weird because I actually had a customer one time while I was working on her RV, and the lady asked me what I did and what I was going to school for and I told her, and she was like, 'you do not strike me as an accountant,' and she happened to be a nurse. She said 'your persona does not come across as boring like an accountant would be. I actually see you doing something more along these lines, along the medical field.' She knew something I didn't!" laughed Marquez.
Ultimately Marquez credits his entry into the Navy to three prominent figures: his grandfather, Faustino, was an Army veteran, his father, Enrique, and his Godfather, Arturo Jacquez, a retired Marine. "I don't know if I was just missing it at that point, or what, but something told me, 'hey pull over, go check it out,' that's how I ended up here," he said, referring to the day he turned his car toward the Navy recruiting office. "I'm from a family that's got a lot of military. The military is in my blood. It just seems that way."
Now on his 13th year in the Navy, Marquez is the head career counselor at NMCSD, guiding Sailors through career decisions, decisions that could change the course of their lives, just like the one he made the day he took that literal turn to join the Navy.
For more news from Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit www.navy.mil/local/sd/.