KAJAKI, Afghanistan --
The brotherhood and friendly rivalry between sailors and Marines spans across the history of both military branches. Whether it’s a sailor jokingly calling a Marine a “jarhead” or a Marine retorting with calling the sailor a “squid,” the two branches are always closely linked. Corpsmen, who support both the Navy and Marine Corps, often find themselves stuck in the crossfire.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Norberto Zamora, a hospital corpsman with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, finds himself surrounded by Marines every day.
Service members from the Army, Navy and Air force, can find it difficult to attach to a Marine infantry company because they must earn the respect of the Marines around them. They have to be able to prove themselves.
“We always tease (Zamora) about being a sailor,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin Wallen, an infantryman with the battalion. “He jokes back and holds his own with the Marines.”
Zamora, a native of Houston, looked forward to proving himself to the Marines. That challenge attracted him to becoming a Fleet Marine Force corpsmen. The FMF corpsmen are navy personnel assigned to Marine units.
He added that as a child he always pushed himself to overcome obstacles. He views his time serving with the Marine Corps as his next challenge.
“Being (with Marines) gives (me) a lot of opportunities to push myself,” said Zamora.
Zamora is one of two corpsmen with 3rd Platoon, Golf Company. Together they are responsible for the medical needs of 38 Marines.
“(We’re) the only medical provider out here,” Zamora said. “I have to be ready for any kind of scenario.”
Marines often spend multiple days in the field, requiring corpsmen like Zamora to carry enough supplies to support the platoon.
“Zamora puts his medical gear before any comforts out here,” Wallen said. “His pack is as heavy as everyone else’s.”
A corpsmen’s pack contains everything from emergency gauze to allergy medicine. Zamora also carries extra water to battle the adverse conditions.
“We have to worry a lot about dehydration, especially with the heat,” Zamora said.
Marines face temperatures more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and with packs weighing anywhere between 70-100 pounds, heat casualties are a high concern.
“He’s always preparing himself,” said Wallen, a native of Gardiner, Mont. “I’ve seen him take hours of his time setting his medical gear up and checking his pack over.
Zamora’s put his training to the test within the first week of arriving in Afghanistan. On his second day, a patrol detonated an improvised explosive device. Three casualties were coming back to the base – and coming fast.
“I woke up to someone yelling ‘CORPSMEN UP!’” Zamora recalled.
The casualties’ injuries varied from shrapnel to the face, lacerations to the body, and an amputated leg. It was a reminder to Zamora of the realities of deployment.
“I remember thinking this is the real deal,” Zamora added. “This was what I was trained to do.”
Zamora treated the casualties with five other corpsmen from the battalion.
Zamora said he realized that his patients’ lives were in his hands and his training immediately took over. It’s a responsibility Zamora doesn’t take for granted.
“I continue to train hard and carry extra gear because I want to be ready for anything,” Zamora shared. “I know these guys depend on me, I can’t let them down. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but with these guys – out here.”
Editor’s Note: The 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.