Navy Corpsman: Forged by the Fire

Story Number: NNS181206-04Release Date: 12/6/2018 9:37:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan, Naval Hospital Pensacola Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Wind wrestles autumn leaves on a crisp November evening in Drummonds, Tennessee.  Horses graze in a pasture, chickens roam the land and the sound of dogs barking carries across a farm.

Ting-ting, ting-ting.

A roaring fire of approximately 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit bellows out of a homemade forge that has what used to be a ball-peen hammer glowing in a warm amber tone.

Ting-ting, ting-ting.

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Herbert Robertson aggressively hammers a piece of metal that is taking the shape of a two-prong fork on one end and a spoon on the other end. Robertson, assigned to Naval Branch Health Clinic (NBHC) Naval Support Activity (NSA) Mid-South, Millington, Tennessee, is a corpsman for the U.S. Navy who uses his free time to hone his skills as a blacksmith.

"I love being a corpsman," said Robertson. "I love the fact that I get to come to work every day and help people. Being a hospital corpsman and being a blacksmith both require attention to detail. I have to make sure that everything is done the same, especially when making repetitive motions. I have to make sure I have a fine eye for detail."

Robertson got interested in blacksmithing when he visited a Viking festival and was intrigued by the work of a blacksmith making small trinkets. He invited Robertson to help, and Robertson left an impression that earned him an open invitation to learn the trade.

"At the end of the day, he told me that if I wanted to continue to learn blacksmithing to come by his house the next day," said Robertson. "So, for the next six months, I literally spent four hours a day at his shop. Every time I got off work I was at his shop learning how to blacksmith."

Robertson believes working as a blacksmith helps balance work as a corpsman and his personal life. He works a full day in the clinic as the acting leading petty officer of the Medical Homeport Clinic, NBHC NSA Mid-South, before he heads home to focus on projects with his forge for a few hours in the evening.

"Blacksmithing brings me a lot pleasure, and it is a great way to release a lot of pent-up energy," said Robertson. "Banging away at the steel, I can go at it on a bad day and I don't worry about anything. Being a blacksmith allows me to maintain a healthy life."

Maintaining a healthy balance in life is essential to Robertson, and hammering and molding discarded metal is vital to his success. When starting a new project, he searches scrap yards using his keen eye for forgotten metals he can transform into something usable such as swords, axes, spears, knives, forks, spoons and lanterns. 

Although he has only been a blacksmith for a little over two and a half years, Robertson’s skill and expertise has provided him with new opportunities, which included a recent appearance on a reality TV show about blacksmiths in which he competed against blacksmiths with many more years of experience.

“My experience on the show has pushed me to grow as a blacksmith, a leader and as an individual,” said Robertson. “I developed lasting friendships with the other blacksmiths on the show, and I have learned through this experience that at times we must fall so we can learn and grow.”

If you would like to know more about Robertson and his blacksmithing, please visit Naval Hospital Pensacola's YouTube channel.

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