What is a Corpsman?


What is a Corpsman?

Corpsman is a term used for an enlisted medical specialist in the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps. Corpsmen comprise the bulk of the sailors within medical departments ashore, afloat, in the Marine Corps, and in Joint Services. The Corpsman rating includes training in a number of specialties – everything from surgery to radiology, physical therapy to respiratory medicine, and many more. As a Corpsman in the Navy, there are numerous opportunities to get the hands-on experience medical assistants require. Corpsmen may also have the opportunity to receive further training in several other medical and dental subspecialties.

What is a Hospital Corpsman? 

Hospital Corpsmen (HM) perform duties as medical assistants in order to prevent and treat disease and injury. Corpsman tasks include first aid and preventive medical procedures. Hospital Corpsmen provide patient care and the administration of medicines.  In addition to being medical professionals, Hospital Corpsmen instruct medical and non-medical personnel in first aid, self-aid, personal hygiene, medical records maintenance, and assist in the transportation of the sick and injured.

Once they are promoted, Hospital Corpsmen can be tasked to perform supervisory, technical, planning, and management functions in support of medical readiness and quality health care delivery. In addition to their general assignments, Hospital Corpsmen trained as technicians perform specialized functions within the operational forces, clinical facilities, and administrative departments. Hospital Corpsmen may also be assigned to work independently of medical officer supervision.

What does a Navy Corpsman do?

Navy Corpsmen make up the medical support team for the entire United States Navy. As a Navy Corpsman, one could be tasked in several different jobs.

These include:

  • Serving as an operating room technician for general and specialized surgery
  • Processing dental X-rays and operating X-ray equipment as a Dental Assistant
  • Working in the field with Navy SEALs, Seabees, or as an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) with the Fleet Marine Force
  • Administering preventive or emergency medical or dental treatment to Sailors and Marines in the field
  • Administering medications and maintaining medical records

How to become a Navy Corpsman

So, how do you become a Navy Corpsman? Well, just like all other professions in the United States Navy, you must complete recruit training or “boot camp. Navy recruit training is held in Great Lakes, Illinois, and is seven to nine weeks long. Once recruits graduate recruit training, they are sent to their “A” school.  Navy Hospital Corpsmen “A” school is located at the Medical Education and Training Campus in Joint Base San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and is 19 weeks long.

At Navy Hospital Corpsmen “A” school, new Corpsmen are taught working knowledge of basic principles and techniques of patient care and first aid procedures in preparation for their first assignment. Following graduation from “A” school, HMs are assigned to either Navy medical treatment facilities, operational Navy, or Fleet Marine Force units.

Further assignments may include a dental support program or advanced medical “C” School training. Enlisting as a Navy Corpsman is a five-year enlistment obligation.

How to become a Navy Corpsman with the Marines

Following “A” school, a motivated and dedicated Corpsman can request Marine Field Medical School. Since there are no medics in the Marine Corps, the Navy provides the administrative duties of the Marine Corps with Navy Corpsmen.

Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Corpsmen may be trained at one of two Field Medical Training Battalions (FMTB): Camp Johnson in Jacksonville, N.C., or Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, California. Both locations share a common program of instruction that transforms basic Navy Corpsmen into FMF Corpsmen. An FMF Corpsman, as opposed to a Hospital Corpsman serving in Navy commands, is a different kind of Corpsman, often earning the title of “Doc” from fellow Marines.

While at Marine Field Medical School and during the eight week course, Corpsmen have a mix of classroom and field training. Primary education is focused on learning field medicine by using the principles of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). This includes familiarization with Marine Corps organization and procedures, logistics, and administrative support in a field environment. Additionally, Marine instructors teach Corpsmen how to walk, talk, act, and essentially be Marines. They learn the basics of Marine Corps infantry tactics, patrolling, what to expect when they are with Marines, handling a weapon, and basics such as properly wearing the Marine uniform and “falling in” for formation.

Corpsmen also receive more in depth field training in patrolling, land navigation, shooting and marksmanship, how to deal with IED encounters, and five-paragraph military orders. Training is similar to what is taught at MCT (Marine Combat Training Battalion, School of Infantry). A Fleet Marine Force Corpsman is both a warrior and healer. It is the ultimate role for a Navy Corpsman and one that many never reach.

Being a Navy Corpsman provides many opportunities, whether it is to work aboard a Navy ship, in a hospital, or in the field with Marines.  The Corpsman profession is always in demand.

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