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Independent Duty Corpsman: A Department of One

16 March 2023

From Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Granado

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 14, 2023) – Assuming duties typically reserved for a chief petty officer and tending to a crew of more than 100 is an intimidating prospect to many Sailors. However, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Seo Song does exactly that every day aboard Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS 26) as the Independent Duty
PACIFIC OCEAN (March 14, 2023) – Assuming duties typically reserved for a chief petty officer and tending to a crew of more than 100 is an intimidating prospect to many Sailors. However, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Seo Song does exactly that every day aboard Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS 26) as the Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC).
Independent Duty Corpsmen work independently to safeguard the health and welfare of the crew.
Being an IDC on an LCS comes with myriad duties and responsibilities. Some are more observable than others, such as sick call and medical training. Many others, like daily water testing and a bi-weekly pest surveys, are relatively unknown among fellow shipmates.
“The work is stressful because all of the responsibility and accountability lies completely with me," said Song. "There are days I ask myself: What did I get into?”
A native of Los Angeles, Song has served 15 years in the Navy with assignments as a Corpsman on six other vessels including Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Whirlwind (PC-11) and the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19). It’s his time being the sole medical care provider to Sailors underway that have made Song into the hospital corpsman he is today.
“It’s so important to keep an open mind when treating a patient, and to come from a place of sympathy and empathy,” said Song. “Get adjusted to your command and crew, but always be ready to adjust and adapt.”
Even as a seasoned IDC, Song considers his time with Mobile a valuable opportunity for professional and personal growth.
“The structure and the manning are different,” explained Song. “So the expectations and therefore the stress for the crew is different. Sailors on an LCS can have a lot of obligations outside of their rate. So I modify my care plan and how I approach people so I can meet them where they’re at.”
Typical of an IDC, Song reports directly to the commanding officer and executive officer. Cmdr. Matthew Shaw, executive officer of Mobile, says he understands the pressure Song is under to care for crew and meet the operational needs of the ship.
“The job can be a heavy burden because all eyes are on him for the care of everybody here,” said Shaw. “The crew feels safe with him and knows he has their best interests in mind if anything were to happen.”
With almost a year on Mobile, Song has developed a strong relationship with his shipmates. It’s because of that, he says, that he feels obligated to continuously improve and provide the best care for the crew as the only hospital corpsman aboard.
“He’s doing phenomenal and the crew loves him,” said Shaw. “That’s the most important part.”
Littoral Combat Ships are fast, optimally-manned, mission-tailored surface combatants that operate in near-shore and open-ocean environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. LCS integrate with joint, combined, manned and unmanned teams to support forward-presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions around the globe.

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