‘Devil Docs’ are integral part of Marine unit

12 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

He walks the streets of Port-au-Prince with a pistol holstered at his side and a patrol pack on his back.  Moving amidst the column of Marines, he stops only occasionally to converse with them.
One might not even be able to distinguish him from the 21 Marines in the patrol but for the absence of an eagle, globe and anchor emblem on his cover, and the presence of a large, shield-like insignia on his flak jacket.   
He eats with them, trains with them, works with them, lives with them.  For all intents and purposes, he is one of them.
“I pretty much consider myself a grunt with a first aid kit,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian M. Isherwood, corpsman with 1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Although a sailor by trade, Isherwood and fellow corpsmen with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force-8 ground combat element live like infantry Marines.  The medics, called “docs,” head out with Marine security patrols every time they leave the compounds, which is usually two to three times a day, Isherwood said.
When not patrolling, docs train alongside their infantry counterparts.  Isherwood says medics are taught the same combat tactics and field survival skills that grunts learn.
“I really enjoy the field training.  It’s good to go out with these guys and train,” he added.
But MAGTF-8 corpsmen are jacks of all trades.  In addition to roughing it with the infantry, the docs man the battalion aid stations and learn the administrative and logistical aspects of their job, Isherwood stated.
“Every corpsman is trained to care for the combat casualty, but they support the battalion aid station in all aspects,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Wayne A. Cardoni, 8th Marine Regiment surgeon.
Cardoni said MAGTF-8 corpsmen receive training in all operational aspects of their field. The docs learn how to handle their own administrative issues and order their own supplies, he added.
“Some of the medical supplies we use are unique and rare,” Cardoni stated.  Having the corpsmen order their own supplies and take care of their own business is more efficient than working through a regular supply chain,” he continued.
“Our corpsmen are also taught how to operate radios, conduct medical evacuations, and even learn some dental technician work,” said Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Mark S. Starnes, MAGTF-8 Navy senior enlisted medical staff member.
Starnes said the docs receive this training because they “never know where they’re going to end up.  The more they know, the better prepared they are to deal with unforeseen events,” he added.
“No standard operating procedures are really written down, but I make sure the corpsmen have what they need to perform the job,” the senior chief stated. 
Starnes also said he likes to get out with the line corpsmen, those working with the ground combat element, to see if they have all the training and supplies needed to get the mission accomplished.  He said he ensures that his corpsmen work effectively with the Marines.
Isherwood said training alongside Marines helps the medics learn how they react to situations and about their personalities.
“The training is beneficial because if anything arises, we’ll be able to accomplish the mission with the Marines,” Starnes stated.  All of the corpsmen’s training is geared towards taking care of Marines, he added.
“No Marine is going to be left on any kind of battlefield or backstreet in Haiti,” Starnes continued.  “I can tell you that for sure.”
Starnes said the docs also work effectively as a team with each other.  He said the MAGTF-8 medical personnel coordinated effectively with Charlie Surgical Company at the CJTF headquarters to administer emergency medical care to Haitian locals when their vehicle overturned.
“The corpsmen have done an outstanding job, but I can also say that the Marines I’ve served with here have done a very, very professional job,” Starnes said.  “From the quick reaction force to the patrols and security they’ve provided, they’re outstanding.”