PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Hospital corpsmen have a long and proud tradition of excellence, honor, bravery and sacrifice as the Navy's enlisted Medical Corps. On June 17, the Navy's Hospital Corps will celebrate 115 years of service.
Hospital corpsmen perform their duties as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injury and assist health care professionals in providing medical care to DoD personnel and their families. They may function as clinical or specialty technicians, medical administrative personnel or health care providers at Medical Treatment Facilities. They also serve as battlefield corpsmen with the Marine Corps, rendering emergency medical treatment to include initial treatment in a combat environment.
Since the inception of the Navy in 1775, the need for Sailors dedicated to the caring of the sick and injured has been a priority. There were surgeon's mates in the late 1700's, loblolly boys in 1841, male nurses in 1861, baymen in 1876 and finally the establishment of the Hospital Corps in 1898. The hospital corpsmen have a long and proud tradition of taking care of those in their charge.
In order to ensure that the members of the new Hospital Corps were adequately trained in the disciplines pertinent to both medicine and to the Navy, a basic school for corpsmen was established at the U. S. Naval Hospital Norfolk (Portsmouth), Va. Originally called the School of Instruction, it opened Sept. 2, 1902. Its curriculum included anatomy and physiology, bandaging, nursing, first aid, pharmacy, clerical work and military drill. The first class of 28 corpsmen graduated on Dec. 15, 1902.
Early history of the Hospital Corps set a pace of conspicuous service and involvement that would continue to the present. According to www.Corpsman.com, before there was even a Hospital Corps School, Hospital Apprentice Robert Stanley was serving with the U.S. contingent at Peking (Beijing), China. A Chinese political group that was opposed to the foreign presence in China prompted attacks on foreign embassies in July 1900. During this action, Stanley volunteered for the dangerous mission of running message dispatches under fire. For his bravery, Stanley became the first in a long line of hospital corpsmen to receive the Medal of Honor.
World War I provided the Hospital Corps a role that would afford it some of the most dangerous challenges it would ever face: duty with the Marine Corps. In the face of great adversity, the Hospital Corps would cement its reputation for effectiveness and bravery.
"The Marines do not have any medical [personnel], we are their medical," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Chi Partick, command career counselor with Naval Hospital Pensacola. "That's something to be proud of because we go where the Marines go; we take the fight to the enemy and do what they do. There is a lot of pride in that."
World War II showed a sustained commitment between Marines and the Hospital Corps. At Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, Saipan, Tinian, Kwajalein, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, corpsmen were shoulder to shoulder with Marines every step of the way. This is portrayed in one of the most recognized images of the war where Hospital Corpsman John Bradley and five Marines are seen raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi.
The sacrifices of the Hospital Corps have been evident in the honors received; 22 Medal of Honors, 174 Navy Crosses and 20 Naval Ships named in honor of Hospital Corpsman. During their 115 years of service, more than 2,000 corpsmen have lost their lives while serving in action.
"One thing I love is the rich history. I take a lot of pride in that even though I have never received a Medal of Honor or Purple Heart," said Patrick. "I'm part of an elite group of individuals that have done that. Just to call myself a hospital corpsman is an immense amount of pride."
Today hospital corpsmen work in a variety of environments. Some corpsman works indoors in hospitals or clinics. Others work aboard ships and submarines, air squadrons and in special operational environments. Of course, corpsmen still serve with Marines, a bond that is stronger than ever.
"Most of [corpsmen] bond very, very tightly with our Marines," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd class Justin Hillery, assistant leading petty officer, Anesthesia Department, NHP. "As corpsmen, we are very protective and attached to [our Marines]. It's a unique relationship and I loved every second of it."
When asked how he felt about hospital corpsmen, Lt. Cmdr. David Moore, A resident at NHP said, "Corpsmen always brought that feeling of comfort to Marines. Even if you got injured or wounded, you always just felt like your corpsmen would take care of you."
"I served with corpsman while I was a forward air controller with a Marine infantry battalion," said Moore, who was a Marine Corps Harrier pilot prior to becoming a physician in the Navy. "Corpsman are indispensable and watching what they do every day is what helped me decide to pursue a career in medicine."
Just as some people decide they want to become a part of the medical community, a few reluctantly leave in order to pursue other avenues.
"When I was selected for the command master chief program, I had to give up my rate," said Command Master Chief Douglas Sprague, with NHP. "Even though I don't wear it on the sleeve any more, I still have it in the heart, and I'm still a corpsman through and through."
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