“The guys going greenside are going to be hiking
with the Marines, they’re going to be PTing with the
Marines, they are going to be doing all the stuff the
Marines do,” Longo said. “If the corpsmen can’t keep
up, how can they provide support to the Marines?”
Students are split into platoons and learn infantry
basics, like patrolling or pulling security.
“It’s everything from gear to radios to weapons to tac-
tics,” he said. Things like patrolling and low-crawling
“are stuff that Marines consider common knowledge …
[but] it’s alien to the corpsman.” Once at their Fleet
Marine Force (FMF) platoon, “they know the basics of
what’s going on in the patrol. They know what’s going
on with the radios and their gear,” he added. “They’ll get
further guidance once they get to their units.”
That foundation is important. Depending on timing,
some corpsmen have just a few months or weeks to
train with their FMF unit before going overseas.
“That introductory period is very quick. The learning curve is very steep,” Longo said. Others might
surge months or years later into a deploying unit.
Ready to Go
At FMTB-West, the current class has orders in hand,
counting down the days to their Sept. 18 graduation.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Michael Jones stands out
among the students. At age 48, the former third-class
damage controlman and Marine sergeant communicator
with a 2003 Iraq deployment hopes to complete training
and rejoin his Marine Corps Reserve unit, 4th Air-Naval
Gunfire Liaison Company. Medical skills are familiar to
him: He’s a firefighter-paramedic in Palm Beach, Fla. But
becoming that platoon Doc is his ultimate goal.
The high-paced environment of trauma care appeals
“I just want to do something more,” Jones said. “I
thought, I’m a perfect fit. I’m an asset” with his varied
experiences in different uniforms and medical care.
Hospitalman Joel Blades graduated Corpsman School
on July 9 and hopes to serve with Marine reconnaissance,
a community in dire need of highly trained special
amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen. The former Sailor
enlisted in 2012 for SEAL training, but took a circuitous
route to FMTB, deploying as an undesignated seaman
aboard the landing ship dock USS Harpers Ferry. There,
he learned about recon and greenside corpsmen.
“I want to be more than just a shooter. I want to be
someone who has multiple skill sets, help other people
and adapt to different situations,” said Blades, 28. “I
think that brotherhood, even with the corpsmen, is kind
of what I was looking for.”
During his deployment with the 13th Marine
Expeditionary Unit, “I saw every day how the Marines
and the corpsmen were,” he said.
He liked how Marines were protective of their
corpsmen, even on liberty together, and he’s eager to
jump into a world so different from a hospital setting.
“Here, you’re in a time crunch. You might have bullets
flying over your head,” Blades said. “To me, that appeals
more than just sitting in a doctor’s office. It’s different. I just
like a little more action, a little more stress and pressure.”
Once at their FMF units, corpsmen delve into learning ways of the Marines during small-unit training and
field exercises. It’s there where they build trust with
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Sandra Bridges,
who has spent most of her 17-year career around
Marines, said a trusting relationship takes work.
“You do have to earn some respect with them, as far
as how you treat your patients,” said Bridges, who
works in patient relations at Naval Medical Center San
Diego, her first “blueside” tour. The job is toughest for
corpsmen lacking skills or confidence, shortfalls a
Marine platoon quickly sniffs out.
At their units, many delve into the books to study
and earn the FMF warfare specialist pin, seen as fur-
ther proof of their skills and commitment. Bridges said
Marines “know that if you have that pin, you are pretty
In 2012, Bridges deployed to Afghanistan with
Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 at Camp
Pendleton. As the senior of three corpsmen in a
A U.S. Navy corpsman assigned to the 1st Marine Division conducts tactical combat casualty care training during the Combat Trauma Management Course taught by
instructors from the 1st Marine Division Navy Education
and Training Office at the Strategic Operations facility,
San Diego, July 30.