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Lieutenant j.g. David M. Viayra, physician assistant, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, from Norwalk, Calif., examines the armpit of a patient in the Battalion Aid Station at Camp Hit, Iraq, April 22. Corpsmen with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, treat everything from sprained ankles to gunshot wounds and are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Photo by Cpl. Erik Villagran

Docs keep Marines in fight

28 Apr 2008 | Cpl Erik Villagran 1st Marine Division

Corpsmen know they are responsible for keeping Marines in the fight. The corpsmen in 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, relish the idea of being depended on.

The battalion corpsmen are spread throughout the area of operations in Hit and Haditha, Iraq. Having such a large area to cover has increased the responsibility of each corpsmen and added pressure to provide the same level of service to the Marines with a decreased staff.

“It’s a big billet to fill,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher J. Cook, 23, from Oakland, Calif., a corpsman with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines “It’s a lot to ask of from a small group of people, but the training we got prepared us.”

The battalion aid station handles on average 12 patients a day. This high level of service requires everyone to do more than their part.

“The experienced corpsmen really take the young guys under their wing,” said Navy Lt. j.g. David M. Viayra, 36, physician assistant, 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, from Norwalk, Calif.

The junior sailors have really benefited from the experience of the senior, more knowledgeable corpsmen.

“We have two objectives,” Viayra said. “One, we’re a force in readiness. We’re open (all the time) for the Marines. Our second is to support the command; however they see fit to use us as an asset.”

Corpsmen have treated civilian contractors, Iraqi Army and Police, Marines and in some situations Iraqi civilians. They have worked on everything from sprained ankles to a gunshot wound, Cook said.

“IPs and some Marines have had (staphylococcus) infections,” Viayra said. “For those, you have to cut them open, dig (the infection) out and start them on antibiotics. That seems to be the biggest problem out here right now.”

Despite having to see some nasty infections and bad symptoms, these corpsmen don’t mind. It’s all in a day’s work.

“I love what I do,” Cook said. “I changed jobs to become a corpsman.”

With the battalion’s corpsmen dedicated to their work and ready for anything Marines are reassured that they will be taken care of if anything goes wrong.

“We take care of Marines and they take care of us,” Cook said. “That way everyone’s happy and we all make it home.”

1st Marine Division