CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
For the last 124 years, Navy Hospital Corpsmen have served alongside Marines and Sailors in every clime and place; in the field and in garrison; in training and in conflicts spanning the globe.
Navy Corpsmen derive their name from the U.S. Navy’s Hospital Corps. Established on June 17, 1898, the Hospital Corps enabled the Navy to provide formal Sailors medical training.
After passing Navy basic training, Sailors move on to Hospital Corps School, where they learn things like first aid, emergency medicine, anatomy, hygiene, and how to operate medical equipment.
Finally, Corpsmen are assigned to Naval hospitals, ships, or air centers. A select few then train to operate alongside the Fleet Marine Force or the “Green side.”
"...After the dust settles and after everything is over the Corpsman must remain strong because they still have to continue to provide care for others.” Lieutenant Iris Manso, a 2nd MEB health service support officer
U.S. Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Judith Whitt, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class John P. Gray, and Lieutenant Iris Manso serve as the medical team for the Marines and Sailors assigned to 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and they are currently deployed aboard USS Mount Whitney in support of Exercise Baltic Operations 2022.
They describe why they chose to join the Navy, what it means to be a Corpsman and medical professional, and provide insight into the world of the FMF “doc.”
Chief Whitt is the senior enlisted medical advisor at 2nd MEB. Alongside the medical officer, she provides counsel to the commander and performs various forms of medical planning like tracking personnel medical readiness and providing research on health considerations and concerns endemic to the geographic areas of operation.
“I had multiple family members serve across different branches. My grandfather, whom I greatly respected, was a doctor in the Navy and I felt a higher calling to help people,” said Whitt, a native of Whittier, California. “I wanted to join the Navy in July 2003 and I wasn’t going to sign up unless I could be a Corpsman.”
“Right away, I wanted to be FMF during the surge into Fallujah, but at the time, only male Sailors were accepted into the program,” she said.
FMF training is comprised of an 8-week formal school taught by Navy and Marine Corps personnel. They train Corpsman on history, patient combat care, battlefield communication, and patrolling among other combat skills. Whitt was finally able to attend training in 2009.
“FMF training was a challenge – something different. I found myself trying to keep up with my male peers. There was a lot of personal growth during that process,” said Whitt.
Whitt describes her first deployment with a Marine Corps unit.
“In Kuwait, I operated as part of a female engagement team operating alongside the Kuwaiti National Army. On one patrol I was asked to tend to a local civilian woman that expressed a need for medical care.
Wrap It Up
Photo by Lance Cpl. Bradley Ahrens
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsmen Armondo Zubri Jr. with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, prepares a simulated casualty for movement during a Mass Casualty training event in support of Valiant Shield 2022 on Palau, June 4, 2022. Mass casualty drills test the corpsmen’s ability to treat and stabilize large numbers of casualties with various wounds.
My team was able to provide the care she needed. Being able to experience the full breadth of care we provide as Corpsman was a powerful experience. We care not only for our Marines and Sailors, but our responsibility as Corpsman is to provide care and empathy for all who are hurt or need care.”
“The Corpsman creed states to dedicate your heart, mind and strength to the work before you, to do all within your power to show in yourself an example of all that is honorable and good. You can’t just say it, you have to be it, and you have to live it and that has been the secret to my success,” said Whitt.
Lieutenant Iris Manso served nine years as an enlisted Corpsman before commissioning as a medical officer in 2013. She currently serves as the health service support officer for 2nd MEB, and now provides mentorship and guidance for medical professionals at all levels.
“As a Navy Officer I use my prior enlisted experience by providing perspective to other medical officers and Chief Hospital Corpsmen. I had the opportunity to work as staff at the Field Medical Training Battalion-East, where we train Corpsmen to serve with the FMF,” she said.
“As a Corpsman, I would try to put everything I had toward my patients. Being a Corpsman you think about the patient first – have empathy. Beyond how you personally feel, you have to care for people who are in vulnerable states – injured, sick, and scared and you have to do the best for them.”
During her time as an enlisted Hospital Corpsman, Manso learned about the unique connection between Marines and their Corpsmen.
“As a Corpsman I have seen Marines and other service members at their best and at the top of their training. I have also had to endure hardship and loss with them. When you endure hardship with them and experience loss of friends that you serve with, you really begin to understand what they experience and carry. After the dust settles and after everything is over the Corpsman must remain strong because they still have to continue to provide care for others.”
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gray is a preventive medicine technician at 2nd MEB. He manages medical readiness and advises senior staff on all matters of force health protection.
Gray describes what it means to be a Navy Corpsman, “Being a Navy Corpsman means being compassionate, caring, a mentor, a guide, a brother or sister to Sailors and Marines. I like being with the Marines and taking care of them. They will always take care of you. It’s a special bond – Corpsman and Marine. It’s like a brotherhood.”
To this day, because of the bond forged by over a century of fighting side-by-side, Marines toast “to the Navy Corpsman!” at every mess night, and when in need, Marines can find a trusted response when they call out for the “doc.”