The Hospital Corps has provided health care to Sailors, Marines and civilians worldwide for over a century. With exemplary valor and dedication, the Navy’s most decorated rate has served in every military conflict since the rate’s conception July 17, 1898.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Ingram is one of 22 corpsmen to receive the Medal of Honor, the record for any naval specialty. His conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity during the Vietnam War tells one of the countless stories of bravery amongst the discipline.
Ingram was awarded for his fearless response while attached to a platoon of Marines. The platoon came under attack by approximately 100 enemy combatants from a North Vietnam aggressor battalion. Engaged in an intense fire fight, Ingram was oblivious to the danger he was in as he crawled across the terrain with bullets thudding all around him. He received four
life-threatening bullet wounds, yet continued to administer aid to critically wounded Marines.
In the Vietnam War alone, hospital corpsmen received four Medals of Honor, 31 Navy Crosses, 127 Silver Stars and 291 Bronze Stars for heroics under fire. Ingram’s story is a testament to the rate’s rich history of perseverance, selflessness and unwavering determination to serve, and save lives.
The largest rate in the Navy, the Hospital Corps consists of more than 25,480 active duty and reserve Navy hospital corpsmen (HM). Twenty naval ships have been named after hospital corpsmen. Since 1919, 178 corpsmen have received the Navy Cross Award. America’s armed forces have relied on HMs on the frontlines of war, and in the hospitals and doctor’s offices servicing military personnel and dependents across the United States, overseas and aboard Navy vessels.
On the eve of the rate’s 117th birthday, HMs aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) continue to support the mission by remaining adaptable and on the ready in the case of an actual casualty.
“As an HM, you can go to any part of a hospital and be an asset to that team,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jaime Rivera. “We do much more than physicals and needle sticks. We provide safety coverage for every evolution the ship conducts, including drills and underway replenishments.”
Sister services, the Navy and Marine Corps work hand in hand to protect the interests of the nation. Just like Marines serve aboard the Navy’s ships, HMs serve alongside Marines around the world providing preventative medical and emergency procedures.
“When I [enlisted] I was put with the fleet marine force,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Andrew Hamilton. “My primary job is to be a field medical service technician, so I work very closely with infantry because Marines don’t have their own medical staff. The Navy provides all nurses, doctors and corpsmen for them.”
Corpsmen also provide critical support to humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.
“Being an HM in the Navy has allowed me to give back in ways I never could as a civilian,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Chelsea Turner. “I was in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. We picked up rubble, helped locate missing people and ensured the community had clean water.”
Intense schooling can be hard on any Sailor, but Hamilton is grateful for the training.
“The part that makes it all worth the schooling and long hours is when I am on deployment and treating wounded Marines, and coming back home to see that they are still alive because of the treatment I gave them,” said Hamilton. “All of the sacrifices that come with my job are worth it to come back and see them alive.”
HMs serve in billets across the operational spectrum, such as: independent duty aboard ships and submarines, fleet marine force, special forces, isolated duty stations, and Seabee battalions. As rewarding as the job may be, HMs face challenges as unique as their billeting.
“I enjoy helping people out, and being a hospital corpsman lets me do that,” said Turner. “The hardest part for me is separating the job from my personal feelings when a patient’s treatment doesn’t have the outcome we hoped for.”
Navy medical personnel fill a variety of roles with training available for nearly 40 Navy Enlisted Classifications (NEC).
“I like having the ability to do many different things. Because my job has so many aspects, I never feel like I am getting stagnant in one area,” said Hamilton. “There are so many specialties and subspecialties to the rate of HM that there is a multitude of jobs that we qualify for if we were to get out of the Navy.”
From managing medical paperwork, treating battlefield trauma to putting on gloves to assist in a surgery, HMs find themselves in a challenging rate that encompasses much more than doling out Motrin and vaccination shots.
Lt. Kevin Nitzling, TR’s radiation health officer, enlisted as an HM before commissioning and has a special respect for those who don the HM rating badge.
“The HM rate is a great field with many opportunities. There is a lot to it that people don’t see,” said Nitzling. “If this rate interests you, be ready for a challenge. It is not as easy as it is made out to be.”
Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).
Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Hopkins II, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs
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