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Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Wagner, left, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, monitors Lance Cpl. Aaron Brown, a motor transport operator with the battalion, during a physical therapy session at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 14, 2014. Wagner routinely improvises medical treatment while in the field. He understands the work tempo of the Marines requires the battalion aid station to be creative when continuing treatment for their patients.

Photo by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo

Corpsman adapts, overcomes environment to provide aid to Marines during Exercise Desert Scimitar

29 May 2014 | Sgt. Timothy Lenzo

Adapt and overcome. This is a phrase used often by Marines when in the field. It relates back to the idea of not letting obstacles get in the way of accomplishing the mission.

For Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Wagner and the rest of the battalion aid station staff, it means using the environment to ensure service members' medical needs are met.

Wagner, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, is currently supporting Exercise Desert Scimitar. The Division acts as the headquarters element of I Marine Expeditionary Force during the exercise.

As the assistant leading petty officer of the battalion, Wagner routinely cares for patients while in the field. The environment requires him to think outside the box when it comes to medical aid.

“To us, everything is a piece of medical equipment,” said Wagner, a native of Parker, Ariz.

This philosophy was on display during the exercise when Wagner used workout equipment, a storage container and miscellaneous gear during a physical therapy session with a Marine.

Lance Cpl. Aaron Brown, a motor transport operator with the battalion, recently talked to the corpsman about pain and tightness in his shoulder. Brown was diagnosed with a shoulder sprain by the battalion aid station before the exercise and was seeing a physical therapist.

Wagner knew Brown needed to continue his therapy to keep his condition from getting worse. 

“We decided to use what we had with us to provide him the therapy exercises while we were here,” Wagner said.

With camouflage netting for a roof, Wagner supervised Brown during varied resistance movements and stretches.

“It is great to be able to continue the physical therapy,” Brown said. “It helps me complete the mission and not fall behind in my recovery.”

Wagner believes this kind of thinking is vital to hospital corpsmen. 

“It is essential for corpsmen to be trained to improvise,” Wagner said. “We’ve been trained to use our surroundings.”

For Wagner his goal is helping the service members around him. It’s Wagner’s responsibility to make sure the Marines remain physically able to accomplish the mission. Wagner understands that Marines will injure themselves in less than ideal conditions and he must make sure the proper care is taken.

“We do the best we can to continue care for them in the field,” Wagner said. “That way when they go back to the rear, they are not taking a step back in their recovery, they are still advancing forward.”

The son of a nurse and Sailor, and the grandson of a Marine, becoming a hospital corpsman was the logical choice.

“Just from my whole family background this was the best place for me,” Wagner said. “It’s a little bit of everything. I love working with Marines, taking care of people and the Sailors that I work with.”

Wagner has spent his entire career with 1st Marine Division. He’s cared diligently for the service members during field exercises like Desert Scimitar, back at the barracks of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and while deployed. He continues to adapt and overcome to ensure the Marines are well taken care of regardless of their environment.