ried legacy. Scores have received the nation’s highest valor
awards and countless medals with the coveted gold “V”
device for combat valor. Some ships carry their names.
Much is expected of them.
“The gunnery sergeant is going to be looking at
them to be watching out medically to the platoon or
company,” Gillingham said.
Marines and corpsmen say their relationship is
based on trust and respect that comes from sharing
“The respect will come with the corpsman going
through all the mud and muck that Marines do, shed-
ding that blood, sweat and tears. The trust comes from
seeing him not hesitate. Hesitation kills, everybody
knows that,” said GySgt Eric Longo, chief instructor
and senior Marine at Field Medical Training Battalion-
West at Camp Pendleton. Trust comes “if they see him
acting quickly and he knows what he’s doing.”
The path to becoming “Doc” starts for many at field
medical training battalion. The Navy sends a few thou-
sand hospital corpsmen annually to one of two Marine
Corps schools — Field Medical Training Battalion
(FMTB)-West at Camp Pendleton and FMTB-East at
Camp Lejeune, N.C. — to become field medical serv-
ice technicians. Roughly half come from Corpsman
School — it varies by class — and the rest come from
Navy or Marine Corps units. Graduates get the naval
enlisted classification of 8404, and roughly half com-
pleting the eight-week training do a “greenside” tour.
FMTB-West puts about 1,000 corpsmen through its
courses each year, said CAPT Dan Cornwell, the commander and former hospital corpsman. The school
also teaches field medical service officers and holds
mini-courses in combat trauma and combat lifesaving.
Like its East Coast counterpart, the focus is combat
medicine and Marine Corps tactics.
“The first couple of weeks here is Marine Corps
indoctrination: Weapons, tactics, movement, ranks,”
Cornwell said. The core is combat medicine: “It’s
resuscitation, stop the hemorrhage, stop the bleeding,
save the life of your shipmate.
“We’re all shipmates, but being a corpsmen is a spe-
cial calling,” he said. As 8404 corpsmen, “you’re going
to take care of your Marine brothers.”
Just over a dozen Marine noncommissioned offi-
cers, among the hand-picked, combat-experienced
staff of 40, teach each class — about 200 corpsmen
start each class — how to be part of the Marine Corps
and how to care for their Marines in often gritty,
Spartan, dangerous field environments. The Marine
mindset, corpsmen learn, is expeditionary and requires
discipline and being physically fit.
After initial briefs, students hit the ground running
with long days usually starting with 4 a.m. reveille and
physical training (PT). Days are packed with classroom instruction, hands-on demonstrations, lectures
and study in classrooms and in the field. The course
ends with an 8-mile hike and final field exercise.
“Their eyes are wide open. It’s like a fire hose of infor-
mation coming at them,” Longo said. The tough sched-
ule packs a lot of information, with “early mornings,
long days. It’s constantly go, go, go.” Most students are
unaccustomed to that fast pace, he said, realizing “it’s
not the normal work schedule of a hospital.”
To corpsmen, Longo is a bona fide grunt. The 17-
year veteran arrived in June from his 1st Marine
Division unit, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, where he was
the company gunny for Kilo Company. He’s deployed
twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
Many corpsmen are not used to a common “teaching
tool” that Marines use: Getting yelled at. “It’s a huge eye-opener,” said Longo. Marines use it to add more stress in
training, to push Marines and corpsmen beyond their
comfort zone, adding to the chaos and fatigue they feel
when they have to grapple with casualties.
“Once their body gets fatigued and they’re sweating
and they’re hot and uncomfortable, you can see their
mind starts to shut down. Some of them think, ‘I can’t do
this.’ I’ve see it with Marines, too,” Longo said. “That’s
where you are there to motivate them and push them.”
Students have to meet Navy standards, like the phys-
ical readiness test for example, but they are learning the
Marine way of doing things and leadership.
39 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015
U.S. Navy corpsmen and Marines, assigned to various units
in the 1st Marine Division, conduct tactical combat casualty
care training during the Combat Trauma Management
Course, taught by instructors with the 1st Marine Division
Navy Education and Training Office, at the Strategic
Operations facility, San Diego, July 30. The course, held
once a month for 40 students, combines simulated injuries
on role players and chaotic battlefield environments to prepare corpsmen and Marine combat lifesavers for the stress
of saving lives in real-world operations.