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Deployed ‘docs’ keep skills sharp for ‘Betio Bastards’

29 Jul 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

There’s zero room for errors when there’s one "doc," 18 Marines and just 60 seconds to save lives.

‘Docs’ here are training to make every second in that one short minute a lifesaving moment.

Hospital corpsmen attached to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are keeping their medical skills sharp while multiplying their numbers by continuing their training in a combat zone. They are on duty in Habbaniyah, Iraq, with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“Just how Marines have to constantly shoot to be on-point, we have to practice our skills to be on point,” said Seaman Samuel L. Blanco, hospital corpsman with Weapons Company.

The 24-year-old from Waco, Texas, says when skills aren’t sharpened, lives are at risk.

“In the rear, you could have one doc that’s good at one thing and another that’s good at another thing but out here you have to be good at everything,” said Seaman Michael J. Harty, another hospital corpsman.

Corpsmen constantly conduct training on applying pressure dressings, tourniquets and intravenous  fluids, or needle sticks to push saline solutions – everything needed to treat casualties in a combat situation.

Marines serving with ‘docs’ know their mission is tough and are glad the corpsmen train to help their Marines and themselves.

“It’s delightful that our ‘docs’ are constantly training,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Missey, a mortarman with Weapons Company.

“The ‘doc’ is the only person you’ve got when the worst-case scenario hits,” said Missey, a 28-year-old from Ocean Springs, Miss.

Harty, a 21-year-old from Bloomingdale, N.J., said the training couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Last night, we had a Marine who had bronchitis and the heat got to him,” he said. “We had to cool him off, get him fluids through an IV.”

Harty said they cooled the ailing Marine with ice packs until he could be transported to the battalion’s aid station.

It might have been worse if the ‘docs’ weren’t ready at the drop of a dime. Still, it’s not just the corpsmen who were ready with the jab of a needle.

Missey said you can’t always depend on the corpsmen because one of them may become a casualty.

“It’s not just the ‘docs’ responsibility,” he said. “It’s each and every individual Marines’ responsibility also.”

Marines enrolled in classes like the Combat Lifesaver’s Course need to take the material seriously. Situations in Iraq can turn deadly, quickly. It’s the fast-thinking combat lifesaver and corpsmen who make the difference, Missey said.

“When you’ve got less than 60 seconds to fix someone’s leg – that’s been blown off – before they bleed to death, you’ve got to keep your head on straight so you don’t lose your friend,” he added.

These ‘docs’ know this, so they multiply their numbers.

Not only did corpsmen train each other, they also trained their Marines in medical skills.

Corpsmen taught Marines how to treat casualties until they can receive further treatment when help arrives.

“Our confidence in our guys is pretty high,” Harty said. “I know if I go down, the Marines are confident enough to save a life, either mine or another Marine’s life.”

This also keeps Marines’ minds focused toward the fight.

“With only one corpsman in the section, that’s one corpsman to every 18 Marines,” Harty said. “Training our Marines becomes really important.”