"Docs" take care of CJTF-HOA warriors

15 Nov 2002 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

An eight-man medical team left with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa when they departed for the northeast tip of Africa recently. The task force's job is to aid in the global war against terrorism.The medical teams' job is to care for these warriors.Some might define a corpsman as, "Usually a young, long-haired, bearded Marine-hatin' Sailor with certain medical skills, who will go through the very gates of hell to get to a wounded Marine."Luckily, for the Marines and Sailors attached to CJTF-HOA, the task force's corpsmen say only the latter half of that statement is factual."All I really want to do while I'm here is to do the best job for my Marines as I can, because they are like my family right now," said Petty Officer 3rd Class John P. Sofronas, a corpsman for the task force. While aboard USS Mount Whitney, the main focus of the eight-man medical team encapsulates four primary "prongs," according to the CJTF force health protection officer, Lt. Allen D. Wright.The first is patient movement."When a Marine or Sailor is injured we treat them as best we can here then we get them transported to a U.S. hospital either back in the United States or to the nearest one possible," explained Wright, of Milwaukee. The second of the four prongs establishes what kinds of medical assets need to be in the area of operation.Wright went on the say, "After we determine who needs to be where, we make our recommendations to the CJTF commander (Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler). He ultimately decides who goes where." The third prong is planning and coordinating the distribution of medical supplies to facilities on the ground.Preventive medicine measures make up the fourth prong."Before we enter an area of operation, we assess health threats and evaluate a plan to mitigate that threat. That entails giving out vaccinations like Anthrax or malaria," Wright said.The CJTF medical team isn't only responsible for planning and coordinating medical logistics. Half the team works alongside their naval counterparts to give health care to everyone aboard the ship.If the task force becomes land-based, the corpsmen follow."We have enough supplies to last two weeks on land," stated Petty Officer 1st Class David L. Brown, independent duty corpsman and leading petty officer.The Orlando, Fla., native also said, "That means if all hell breaks loose we can care for between 400 and 475 Marines. However, if everything remains calm, then we have more than enough supplies."As with almost any job, challenges arise when the workplace changes."I think the biggest challenge we're dealing with right now is not knowing what to expect. Once we get on shore, we don't know if we're going to be set up in tents or buildings," said Brown. "That's just another thing we're trying to deal with."Brown said with a smile, "The only thing we are sure of is that wherever we end up will be very hot and rocky. But we're going to give the Marines and Sailors the best care we can."The Marines and Sailors of CJTF-HOA should not worry about medical care because according to Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, "...There's no better in the business than a Navy corpsman."