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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Unsung heroes: Corpsmen hold special place among Marines

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | June 26, 2014

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“Corpsman up” yelled Sgt. Deryl Stockton as he ran to help his squad leader, who lay injured inside the motor pool at Al-Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, after the Marines had been hit by six rockets from enemy fire, June 17, 2005.

Corpsmen, otherwise known as “doc,” have accompanied Marines into battle, demonstrating courage and leaving a lasting legacy throughout the Hospital Corps’ 116 years of existence. The Hospital Corps celebrated its birthday, June 17.

Stockton, a motor transportation operator then serving with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group, witnessed corpsmen in action, helping save the lives of his fellow Marines. He now serves as an assistant operations and training chief, Operations/S-3 with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.

Stockton had finished his final inspection and was preparing to go on a night convoy from the motor pool when sirens blared the warning of an imminent attack from enemy forces.

Seconds later, sand, rocks and shrapnel filled the air as six 9-foot-long Chinese rockets exploded inside the compound.

After 15 minutes of small arms fire, Stockton and other Marines emerged from their covered positions to check on their comrades and assess the damage.

Stockton added he heard the muffled cries of "corpsman up" and faint sounds of injured Marines. He, too, had been injured. Both of his ears had ruptured from the blast of a rocket that landed about 16 steps from him. The rocket did not fully explode.

Dazed from the blast, Stockton located his injured squad leader and carried him to a nearby hangar where corpsmen began to arrive to treat the wounded.

“Ten Marines were medevaced out that day,” he said. “Six were from my platoon and I was one of them.”

After two and a half weeks at the Al-Taqaddum Air Base’s hospital, Stockton’s eardrums healed and he rejoined his unit.

“Ever since that day, I hold a special place in my heart for all corpsmen,” he said. “A corpsman is like a Marine that's wearing another uniform.”

Stockton said there is no difference between a corpsman in the field and in garrison. They are all called “doc,” he said.

“When I go to medical, not just here, but anywhere, I see young corpsmen and I always talk to them,” he said. “I treat them like my little brother.”

Since the attack, Stockton stated he keeps track of the Hospital Corps’ birthday.

“They know (the Marines) birthday so I want to recognize them on their birthday,” he said. “Happy birthday, doc, and thank you for what you do.”

Senior Chief Petty Officer David Ocheltree, senior enlisted leader, Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany, has spent more than half of his career serving with Marines.

“I can’t think of a stronger bond than between a corpsman and his Marines,” Ocheltree said. “I have nothing but absolute respect for my Marine Corps brothers. I absolutely love working beside them.”

He deployed twice to Iraq: a six-month deployment in 2004 where he participated in the Battle of Fallujah and as a military training team member during a 13-month deployment between 2005-2006.

Celebrating the Hospital Corps’ birthday means a couple of things, the senior enlisted Sailor emphasized.

“It’s a moment to reflect back on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “I (take) pride (in) knowing I am part of the only enlisted Navy Corps and the highest decorated Corps in the Navy. I can’t imagine doing anything else in the Navy.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Nguyen, command career counselor, NBHC, said as a corpsman in combat, “your only job at that moment in time is to take care of your Marines and make sure they come home.”

Nguyen served two combat deployments: his first in Iraq from January 2008 - January 2009 and then in Afghanistan from March-November 2010.

While in Afghanistan, he helped train Afghanistan border police in the city of Taghaz located in the Khaneshin District in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

It was during this deployment he received a Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a combat distinguished device V, for valor, for his actions.

Nguyen's checkpoint was attacked by a suicide bomber and the force of the blast knocked two Marines unconscious. After the Marines regained consciousness, Nguyen continued through the compound and came across a seriously-injured Afghan soldier.

Exposing himself in an unsecured area, Nguyen provided first aid, but the soldier did not survive.

Nguyen shared his battlefield experiences with his junior Sailors at the clinic.

“The Marines are your brothers and you do everything with them,” he said. “Even if you are an E-2 or E-3, the Marines look at you the same, like that's doc, that's the guy (who) is going to take care of me if I get hurt,” he said. “They look to you as a leader.”

Nguyen said as a combat veteran, the Hospital Corps’ birthday is a time to look back on their history and remember the fallen.

“There are 51 names on a wall at Naval Hospital Corps School in San Antonio, Texas,” he said. “They are the names of the 51 corpsmen (who) have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just like the corpsmen in Chosin, (North Korea); Iwo Jima (now called Iwo To, Japan); and Hue City, (Vietnam), they gave their lives so their brothers could live.”

On June 18, Nguyen and the Sailors at NBHC celebrated their birthday with a mile-and-a-half run.

“Our birthday run is important because it gives us an opportunity to show our pride as corpsmen,” he said. “We are the most decorated Corps in the Navy and it is important to celebrate and share our legacy.”


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