I always knew that I wanted to go into the medical profession. My mom’s been ill throughout my life, so I spent a lot of time in hospitals while I was growing up. Plus, I like taking care of people. After Navy boot camp, I trained to become a Hospital Corpsman.
Then, I received specialized training at the Field Medical Service School (FMSS) in Camp LeJeune, NC, to learn how to handle field and trauma medicine with Marines. I was especially proud to be a part of this training. Naval corpsmen are among the most highly decorated in the Navy because of their selfless service to Sailors and Marines during times of war.
My next tour of duty took me for 18 months to Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where I worked on hospital wards and in the intensive care unit. During this time, I was able to build on all the skills I learned in Hospital Corpsman School and was even selected to be a part of the Presidential Medical Team—a staff that helps to care for the president and any high officials who visit the medical center.
I then received orders to a fleet surgical team on the USS Saipan. These are 15-member teams that go out on ships and provide first echelon surgical care to deployed military personnel. As part of the fleet surgical team, I had the opportunity to do a lot of cross-training, including assisting the doctor in the operating room, taking x-rays, and learning to put on and take off orthopedic casts. I also attended cold-weather survival school, advanced cardiac life support training, and emergency medical technician (EMT) training.
After my experience in the Mediterranean on the USS Saipan, I attended Independent Duty Corpsman school in Groton, CT. This was a 14-month accelerated medical course that prepares Hospital Corpsman to work independently from a doctor while deployed on a submarine. Once trained, you are responsible for the treatment of every medical condition imaginable—from arm fractures to appendicitis to heart attacks. So, when I was deployed on a fast-attack nuclear-powered submarine, I had to make sure that the sailors were healthy, both physically and mentally, especially because submarines can be at sea for long periods at a time. I gave immunizations, counseled the sailors, and monitored the radiation levels of all personnel on board due to their exposure to nuclear power.
During my career, I have had many great experiences. Recently, I was stationed for several months in Um Qasr, a port in southern Iraq. There, I was the only coalition medical asset and was tasked with training the Iraqi Navy and Marines on various medical platforms and oversaw the building and staffing of a medical clinic. The Iraqis were very appreciative of our help, and I am very proud of my work to help the Iraqi naval medicine program grow. Today, as Chief Petty Officer in charge of an in-processing medical clinic at Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, I have the pleasure of passing on my experiences to a great staff of junior Corpsman, who continue to carry on the fine tradition of the Hospital Corps by providing the best possible care to new recruits.