KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq --
When a Navy hospital corpsman becomes “green,” he is placed on the front lines with the trust of the Marine Corps infantryman. He runs through the trenches, engaging the enemy, all while putting his own life on the line providing medical care for the wounded.
After four tours in two separate conflicts, Chief Petty Officer Truman A. Gartman, chief petty officer of the Battalion Aid Station, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, has been a part of that trust for 14 years and counting.
“What I love most about being with the Marines is the amount of trust they have for (corpsmen),” said Gartman. “From the lowest, a private first class, to the higher-ups, a lieutenant colonel, they trust you with their life.”
The 38-year-old, from San Angelo, Texas, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1987 and was sent to Sasapo, Japan, for his first duty station.
Gartman was in and out of minor trouble throughout the time he was in Japan, and this caught the attention of his command master chief.
“The command master chief was telling my officer in charge that, because of my attitude, I would be a perfect (infantryman) corpsman,” he said. “He gave me a choice between being separated and going to the green side.”
Gartman checked into 1st Marine Division out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., from which he deployed to his first conflict, Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm. During the engagements, the young doc cared for wounded Marines as U.S. forces held the Kuwaiti border.
After five years with 1st Marine Division, he went back to caring for Navy sailors. In 1999, he checked into 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, stationed out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, N.C.
“It was a privilege to be back on the green side for good,” said Gartman. “I missed it a lot, and it was great to return to the family.”
He experienced everything from being a standard line corpsman to his favorite duty of them all, a Marine Scout Sniper platoon corpsman with 3rd Bn., 6th Marine Regiment.
After all of the experiences of being a corpsman with a variety of infantry units in several different combat situations, Gartman still came back for more.
“No matter how bad the times were, I always sat down and analyzed what I could have done better,” said Gartman. “I always want to be here to train those who succeed me; that way all the mistakes that I’ve made, they won’t make.”
Now deployed with 2nd LAR on his third tour in Iraq, he trains all of his sailors in everything he knows about medicine and his hobby, construction. According to his sailors, he is used as a giant book of knowledge.
“He’s a good leader,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Titus J. Willis, 25, a hospital corpsman with the BAS, 2nd LAR, from New Orleans. “When it comes to a scale of one through ten on training the sailors, I score him a twenty-five.”
“I hope to leave the hospital corps with better experiences passed down to the other corpsmen,” said Gartman. “I’m here to make all of my sailors not only better people, but better corpsmen”