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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

FMSS: Marines train those who save lives

By | | November 21, 2003

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- They're tougher than woodpecker lips. They chew nails and spit bullets. And they're the ones Marines can count on to save lives -- all because Fleet Marine Force hospital corpsman are trained in true Marine fashion.The Field Medical Service School at Camp Del Mar is one of two schools that train sailors to become corpsmen in the operating forces. The school's mission is to educate, train and prepare Navy medical personnel to serve with Marine operating forces. The first few weeks of the seven-week cycle are very hard on the students, said Master Sgt. Luther Catchings, senior military instructor and a three-year veteran of FMSS. "Corpsmen need to know how to live in combat with Marines," Catchings said.Not unlike Marine Corps boot camp, FMSS entails stages of training to create warrior corpsmen."In the beginning, they're marched everywhere," Catchings said. "The first three to four weeks are very hard on the students, then we go into our mentoring mode after that."The first corpsmen to graduate from the FMSS made the grade on Sept. 4, 1950. The graduating class consisted of 80 hospital corpsmen who had been recalled for Korea.The school has grown in the last 53 years -- especially recently. The school graduated roughly 1,100 corpsmen each year over the last four years.Training is designed for hospital corpsmen attached to Marine units. However, the school also trains dental technicians, doctors, nurses and physician assistants who might deploy with Marines. Some students at the FMSS are fleet returnees who came to the school from a hospital and are training to be field corpsmen. These corpsmen have not worked closely with Marines, but the training opens the door to the green side.The school is composed of both Marine and Navy instructors. The Marine instructors' role is to ensure the sailors are trained in basic infantry skills."Being that the sailors will be working hand-in-hand with Marines, they need to know how Marines operate," Catchings said.The training is different from any other. Most sailors will never work so closely with Marines."At first I didn't have any experience with Marines, but this school showed me what they were like, and so far I'm loving it," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John S. Espeleta, 23, from Bataan, Philippines.Many of the sailors coming to FMSS harbor fears about the physical and mental aspects."At first I didn't think I was going to make it," Espeleta explained. "I wasn't prepared physically, but I have a lot of medical experience from being attached to the USS Kitty Hawk."The corpsmen get past these fears through time and the motivation of their Marine instructors."The corpsmen need a different mentality from other sailors," said Sgt. Ireneusz Iskrzychi, 23, platoon instructor at FMSS. "They need this training to understand how a Marine Corps unit works."The school has seven Marines on staff; four are platoon advisers. Marine platoon advisers are noncommissioned officers from the infantry who pass on their Marine ethos.The Marines working at FMSS are screened by the school's chain of command. If they are found capable, they undergo a series of courses to train corpsmen. Most Marines appreciate what corpsmen have done for them and are happy to give back to the field, Catchings said.After serving with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment for his first enlistment, Iskrzychi is enjoying the change of pace. "It's a good break away from the grunts," he said.Many sailors also are happy for the cross-cultural experience. "Working with the Marines will be good. I think Marines are polite, respectful and more professional to work with," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Cheri A. Minello, 26, from Cleveland.Not every lifesaver who trains at FMSS is deployable. Emergency medical technicians at the U.S. Naval Hospital here receive a portion of their training at FMSS."Many of the skills I learned at FMSS apply to my work with the EMS crew," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd class Timothy J. Delanie, 25, a paramedic.


2 Comments


  • Ricky L. Johansen, Jr. 43 days ago
    Very well written, Corpsman Up!!! Oooorah!!
  • Ricky L. Johansen, Jr. 43 days ago
    Ooooorah!!! Semper Fi brother!!

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