MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
Six men hoisted the American flag over Iwo Jima during World War II, but contrary to popular belief, not all were Marines. John Bradley, a Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, was one of the heroic men that day, and his name and valiant actions live on at the Navy Field Medical Training Battalion aboard Camp Johnson.
More than 1,500 Navy personnel receive training through FMTB each year, made possible by dedicated instructors striving for their students’ excellence.
Upon completion of their basic school, hospitalmen travel to FMTB for a grueling eight-week course.
To get their students prepared for deployments, the instructors with FMTB issue hospitalmen five written tests, a practical application with casualty assessment and a slew of hikes ranging from two to eight miles.
“We turn blue-side hospitalmen into green-side corpsmen,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Lowderman, a medical advisor with FMTB. “We prepare them for the Marine Corps and combat medicine.”
Three hundred students pass through each class, and with a 10 percent attrition rate, the best part of his job is seeing students who begin the course poorly but are able to hold their heads high during graduation, said Lowderman.
After having two students from his first class come back with combat action ribbons on top of their deployment ribbons, Lowderman said he was very surprised because they left practically brand new.
“I’ve done six deployments, two being combat deployments, and I’ve had nothing but phenomenal corpsmen,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Medina, a military advisor for FMTB. “I came here so I can still mold and develop young minds before they are sent to active combat zones.”
The school is very teamwork and leadership oriented. If an individual in a billeted position is not performing to required standards, instructors may replace them with a junior sailor in order to encourage advancement.
“We like to emphasize and stress the importance of working together,” said Medina. “If we go on a run and the students stay in a group on their own, I am impressed by the fact they chose to do it by themselves instead of me yelling at them to.”
The training battalion has a lab with simulated, fully-functional casualties that spew fake blood, allow training with air tubes and even have mock injuries in order to prepare the students. All corpsmen are combat ready after graduation from FMTB but may also receive additional extensive training before deploying.
“They will get sent to the Los Angeles trauma centers for live tissue training,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Rachel Kerner. “There are burn victims and individuals with gunshot wounds; it’s the closest we can get to combat related injuries while in the U.S.”
The FMTB School for hospitalmen learning to be transformed into corpsmen is always full of students, but it’s the instructors who make it all possible for combat-ready individuals to reach deployable units.