Photo Information

A Navy hospital corpsman treats a wounded Afghan in a Helmand Province village in late February. Afghan National Army soldiers and Marine Special Operations Company Marines and sailors were visiting the southern Afghanistan village when they were attacked by Taliban fighters. The MSOC Marines and sailors are deployed to Afghanistan from the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Photo by Marine Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr.

Photo by Marine Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdes

Navy corpsmen with Special Ops save lives in combat zone

12 Mar 2008 | Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr.

On the battlefield or on the firebase, Navy hospital corpsmen routinely care for and treat Afghans with medical emergencies.

 When medical doctors are not available, it is often the “corpsmen” in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, who treat victims with life-threatening injuries.

 Fleet Marine Force-qualified Navy corpsmen and Navy special operations combat medics in Helmand Province with the Marine Special Operations Company from the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion at Camp Pendleton have conducted amputations and treated bullet wounds, burns and even dental emergencies, said a Navy SOCM.

 There is a difference between the “regular” corpsmen and the Navy SOCMs. All SOCMs are FMF corpsmen, but not all FMF corpsmen are SOCMs, explained another SOCM.

 All the Navy corpsmen with the MSOC are enlisted sailors who fight side-by-side with the Marines in special operations missions, but their primary mission is to save lives on the battlefield.

 In some respects they may as well be Marines, several MSOC leathernecks said.

 The corpsmen assigned to the MSOC demonstrated a desire to share in the Marines’ lifestyle long before arriving in Afghanistan. An SOCM explained that Navy corpsmen who want to be assigned to special operations have to pass through Basic Marine Reconnaissance School with Marines.

 But to be certified as SOCMs, the Navy corpsmen also attend a number of other rigorous military schools. These include U.S. Army Jump School; Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School; Marine Combatant Dive School and the Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman School, where they learn to treat neurological issues related to diving trauma, said a Navy SOCM. Finally, they attend a seven-month

 Special Operations Combat Medic School at Fort Bragg, N.C.

 While at the SOCM school, medics work with civilian hospital emergency rooms and with paramedics.

 “If you fail one school, you are out of the program,” said a Navy SOCM.

 But those who successfully complete all the courses and schools earn the SOCM title. And all special operations require the support of certified SOCMs for their missions, said a Navy SOCM.

 The training and skills they learn earn them the respect of every Marine.

 Navy Corpsmen in action at a make-shift firebase clinic treat an Afghan policeman with a gunshot wound operated with no hesitation. The corpsmen treated the entrance and exit wounds, stopped the bleeding and stabilized the patient until he could be transported to a hospital.

 “We have the best corpsmen,” said an MSOC leatherneck who often sees Navy corpsmen in action.

 Editor’s note: Because the military personnel mentioned in this story are special operations personnel, specific locations and their names cannot be published.

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