USS Gerald R. Ford Celebrates 124th Birthday of Hospital Corpsman Rate

17 June 2022

From Courtesy Story

ATLANTIC OCEAN — The hospital corpsman (HM) rate was established 124 years ago and has been saving lives and maintaining the well-being of service members ever since.On June 17, 1898, President William McKinley signed a bill that established the U.S. Navy HM rate. Since the Spanish American War, HMs have cared for their fellow Sailors and Marines
ATLANTIC OCEAN — The hospital corpsman (HM) rate was established 124 years ago and has been saving lives and maintaining the well-being of service members ever since.
On June 17, 1898, President William McKinley signed a bill that established the U.S. Navy HM rate. Since the Spanish American War, HMs have cared for their fellow Sailors and Marines on every ship, every command and on the frontlines of every war.
Hospital corpsman is the largest rating in the Navy, consisting of more than 25,000 active duty and reserve Sailors.
“When we talk about emergency response, we don’t go by ourselves. It’s a team, everybody has a role,” said Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Phillip Jean-Gilles, USS Gerald R. Ford’s medical department leading chief petty officer. “All of our corpsmen have a role, even if it’s just airway or circulation. It’s a fine oiled machine and we continue to work at that.”
Upon completion of basic training, HMs are sent to a three-month “A” school in San Antonio. After graduating “A” school, they have the option to attend any of the 40 Navy enlisted classifications (NEC) schools that exist within the community for additional specialized training.
One of the most sought after NECs is the Fleet Marine Forces, where HMs, also known as ‘doc,’ work alongside Marines around the world. They provide medical service wherever duty calls, especially on the battlefield.
Examples of other NECs include lab technician, surgery technician, dental care and independent duty corpsman that provide medical care to commands that have limited corpsmen.
“I’ve spent 15 years green-side [expeditionary and Fleet Marine force], this is my first ship. You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Jean-Gilles. “I’ve gained a lot of respect for blue-side shipboard surface corpsmen. You need to be a Sailor first. You need to know 3M maintenance, you have to know your job and the specialty you came here for.”
The vast diversity in opportunities within the rate creates a community of excellence where HMs are constantly challenging themselves and each other. This culture of readiness ensures the hospital corps is ready for any new or challenging situations.
“When Covid-19 hit, it truly changed the course of how we functioned day-to-day,” said Jean-Gilles. “No matter what was called upon during that time frame, our corpsmen were there. Good, bad or indifferent, our corpsmen have stood that fight.”
As time passed since the founding of HM, the face of warfare continued to change. Hospital corpsmen have adapted, building upon the methodology of past Sailors. Teamwork and self-sacrifice are what make the HM rate strong.
“I am very fortunate and blessed to have corpsmen in Navy medicine,” said Lt. Vance Baughman, a physician’s assistant assigned to Ford. “Teamwork is essential. Teamwork is vital to the military, to the Navy and especially to medicine. Medicine is a team sport from enlisted personnel to officers.”
Currently, 23 HMs have been recipients of the Medal of Honor. Hospital corpsmen have also been awarded 179 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Crosses (United States Army), 959 Silver Star Medals and 1,600 Bronze Star Medals with Combat “V” for heroism. Hospital corpsman is the most decorated rating in the Navy.
There have been 22 naval ships named in honor of HMs, such as the USS Benfold (DDG 65), USS Caron (DD 970) and USS Durant (DER 389), as well as several hospitals and clinics. Their names pay homage and serve as a remembrance to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives for our country and our freedom.
HMs have proven to be a vital asset to the Navy and Marine Corps ranks, putting themselves in harm’s way in order to save the lives of the service members they fight alongside. HMs across the fleet should feel proud to celebrate 124 years of Navy tradition, and 124 years of keeping Sailors healthy.
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