Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- A medical department has been part of the U.S. Navy since colonial times, to support Marines and Sailors by giving aid whenever, and wherever necessary. There have always been different names for the Sailors that assist the surgeons, ranging from surgeon’s mate to loblolly boys to baymen to nurses and finally, corpsmen.
Corpsmen started out bringing the ‘loblolly’, a sort of porridge, to the sick, cleaning the squad bay, and sanitizing the surgeons’ equipment.
The beginning of World War I brought changes to the role of the Marine Corps to that of an expeditionary force in a large-scale ground war. This in turn gave the corpsmen riskier roles working alongside Marines.
Corpsmen were experts when it came to sick call and preventative medicine, but as roles changed in the military, so did the corpsmen curriculum. Artillery, machine gun fire and mustard gas were new experiences; corpsmen soon found the need to commence on-the-spot treatments.
As time passed, the Navy Hospital Corps grew in numbers and knowledge. Corpsmen have evolved from prepping the squad bay for the sick to treating them.
Corpsmen provide patient care, administer medicine, and perform laboratory, pharmacy, administrative, supply and accounting procedures.
These complex duties put corpsmen on a different plane from their peers in other occupational specialties. They are undergoing comprehensive demands unlike any other enlisted rating in the Navy.
“In the military, we are limited on doctors,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jerod Napier, hospital corpsman, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Alpha Co. “Corpsmen are imperative in order to provide as much care of the patient as they can on their level to prevent the need of hospital visits.”
Napier came to the Combat Center with his unit for Mojave Viper field exercises the week of Oct. 3. He suffered from a foot injury that restricted him to the barracks in order to heal quickly and get back to his unit.
Napier has been attached to an infantry unit for the past two years, treating gunshot wounds, taking shrapnel out of Marines’ skin and treating blast injuries on deployments with the unit. From this, Napier has learned training never stops for a corpsman.
He takes pride in what he does, as do most corpsmen, treating America’s war fighters. A corpsman becomes part of the Marine unit.
“I love being a corpsman,” said Seaman Sarah Bremmer, corpsman, Combat Center military sick call. “It’s a job full of dignity, honor and a deep satisfaction that you feel at the end of the day. There is no better job than being able to take care of Marines and Sailors. Period.”
Bremmer is on ‘shore duty’, as they call it in the Navy, referring to the time they are stationed to take care of the troops aboard a base.
Bremmer looks forward to when she goes on ‘green duty,’ working alongside Marines in field exercises. Both duties are equally important to the overall welfare of the military, she said.
Bremmer treats a lot of musculoskeletal problems, dehydration, common cold viruses and chest problems mostly due to small cases of asthma. Her job is to treat the troops in all occupational specialties while they are not conducting field exercises.
The Hospital Corps is the most decorated military unit for their willingness to sacrifice their lives to save another service member, according to the Virtual Naval Hospital Web site.