The History of Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point

1941 - "Cunningham Field" and "the Dispensary" at Slocum Creek

During the summer of 1940 the Marine Corps conducted a search along the U.S. East Coast for a suitable site for an air station. The search brought them to an area in Craven County on the Neuse River between Hancock and Slocum Creeks. There they created, in a matter of months, a self-contained city of 20,000. Representative Graham Barden was the project's leading advocate in the Congress, which appropriated $40 million in 1941 for construction purposes. On September 4, 1941, the facility was designated “Cunningham Field at Cherry Point, North Carolina,” (in honor of Lt. Col. Alfred A. Cunningham, the first Marine officer to become an aviator),with Col. Cushman, USMC, in command of a small Marine Guard Detachment.

Through condemnation proceedings the government acquired 7,582 acres and construction commenced on landing field runways. On July 9, 1941, Congress authorized the establishment of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., with an appropriation of $14.99 million to clear 8,000 acres of swamp, farms, and timberland. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officers from the 5th Naval District in Norfolk were constructing the field on October 24,  1941, when the first Medical Officer, Lt. Cmdr Everette J. Olncik, USNR, arrived.

Lieutenant Commander Olncik’s primary mission was malaria control with day to day sick call considered secondary. Patients requiring hospitalization were transported by truck to the newly completed temporary dispensary at the tent camp area of the New River activity, later named Camp Lejeune. The attack on Pearl Harbor intensified construction on the station. As a consequence, the original location for the dispensary was changed from the shores of Slocum Creek to a more central location. In December 1941, the first hospital corpsmen, PhM3 L. Sloan and HA1 H. Sims, reported for duty and held sick call in the Marine Guard Barracks.

Captain J. W. Vann, USN, relieved Lt. Cmdr. Olncik as Senior Medical Officer in March of 1942. As other personnel arrived, dispensary services were moved to Barracks “C”. Later in March, 1942, Lt. Cmdr. Harold Gillespie, USN, arrived from the School of Aviation Medicine in Pensacola. The following month, Dr. William J. Holloway and Lt. Cmdr. J. G. McDaniels, USN, arrived to augment the medical personnel. The Dispensary, located in Building 202 on Fifth Avenue,  shared it's facilities with a “slop chute” and a chapel and had two Packard ambulances that were used to transport patients. The station was home to approximately 25 Marine officers, 545 enlisted Marines, 22 Naval Officers and 137 Sailors. By May, 1942, there were three additional medical officers and the dispensary averaged eight patients per day.

On July 11, 1942, Capt. Vann was relieved by Cmdr. Guy Fish, USN, as Senior Medical Officer. On October 7, 1942, the new dispensary was opened and 18 patients were transferred from Barracks “C” Dispensary. The first operation performed in the new dispensary was on October 22,1942. On November 3, 1942, nine Navy Nurses reported for duty with Miss M. R. Genest serving as the Chief Nurse.

1968 - The Commissioning of Naval Hospital Cherry Point

Under the purview of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the dispensary was commissioned as a Naval Hospital on July 1, 1968. Construction began for a new, state of the art facility on 9September 9, 1992. This $34 million, 201,806 square feet facility was designed by Rogers, Lovelock, and Fitz, Inc. A model of modern medical and dental care , it was dedicated on October 1, 1994, as Halyburton Naval Hospital. The 2nd of October marked a milestone in history as the old hospital closed its doors for the first time in forty-two years, but without any lapse or loss of continuity of care. The new hospital was fully operational on October 3, 1994.

2007 - "Small But Mighty" -The Transition to Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point

On October 1, 2007, as a result of a Base, Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision, the Naval Hospital was realigned to a Naval Health Clinic. This realignment forced some changes regarding the scope of care provided on board MCAS Cherry Point. The facility divested the ability to deliver children, provide emergency services and maintain overnight patients. However the clinic did continue same day surgery services. To this day NHC Cherry Point remains the only health clinic in Navy Medicine to offer same-day surgery services.

Presently the clinic continues to provide high-quality patient care services to 33,000 active duty members and DoD beneficiaries. Services currently offered include: Gynecology, Medical Home Port (including Family Care and Pediatrics), Internal Medicine, Orthopedics, Military Medicine, Radiology Services to include MRI and CT, Physical Therapy, Mental Health, Pharmacy, Preventive Medicine, Aviation Medicine, and Same-Day Surgery. The clinic also houses 12th Dental and 2d Marine Air Wing Medical.