In a response to the first article I wrote for SOFREP, a reader asked me to write something about the Navy Corpsmen of MARSOC.
Medics. Corpsmen. Whatever the name, every combat unit has them. Their name carries special meaning for those who’ve called for them in panic and desperation. I’ve been one of those men who had no choice but to put my life into their hands. It’s not for personal validation that I’m sharing this. It’s just that I want my words to carry the weight of a man who would’ve been dead if it weren’t for my medic. (To be fair, my JTAC is equally responsible for me not being a corpse, but that’s for another day.)
So while I can’t speak for every Corpsman, I can speak for mine.
My brother and teammate started his path as any other Corpsman. He raised his hand early in his career and went to the Basic Reconnaissance Course (BRC) after his entry-level Corpsman training was completed. At BRC he learned to thrive on the ground and in the water as part of a team. Next came the infil schools: Marine Combatant Diver and Airborne. “Dual Cool” on his chest, he checked into Ft. Bragg to hone his medical skills. During his time at the 18-D Long Course, he joined future Special Forces Medical Sergeants in becoming some of the most advanced medical professionals of the SOF (Special Operations Forces) community.
Weeks after graduating from the Long Course, he checked into my team. We were right in the middle of our unit pre-deployment workup. Although he already spent the better part of two years away from his wife and home, my team’s new medic jumped right into the workup without complaint. We got him up to speed with what he was lacking, having missed our month-long Direct Action package. Then our Operations Chief sent him to another course or two, to empower him with the same skills as the rest of the team. He fit right in.
One thing I’ve noticed about SOF is that there exists a common trait. It’s slightly intangible, but when you’re in the presence of another warrior you can sense it. Maybe it’s a product of the assessment and selection process. Maybe the lifestyle just attracts a certain breed. No matter the origin or the explanation, we are all cut from the same cloth. Our new SARC (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman) was cut from this cloth as well.
Through the wanton, drunken mayhem of our wild nights out, he was there. During the wet and cold nights in the field, he was there. When it was time to do more medical training, he kept us honest. When too many weeks had passed without some sustainment training, he was there in the team room with enough I.V. kits for everybody. Whether or not he fully understood the weight of his responsibility, he took his role seriously and did what he could to impart all the life-saving knowledge he had. He was the last guy to the team but he fit in as though he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
The time for us to put our lethal skills to the test, individually and collectively, finally came. We knew that we’d be partnered with Afghan soldiers. The responsibility of conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) during a combat deployment can be taxing on your patience and sanity. After a couple of months, many on my team hated the Ghans. Most of them had good cause.
I was one of the lead advisors and had no choice but to tolerate our partner force. When I needed to cultivate relationships, I’d lean on my medic. Besides cash and material handouts, few deeds will secure an Afghan’s favor more so than genuine Western medicine. If we needed to earn the friendship of a commander or a local tribal elder, I knew I could pimp out my favorite SARC for the greater good.
There comes a time when every warrior must decide what he’s willing to endure. During a team meeting, an After Action Report (AAR) was passed around, reporting on a new enemy TTP (Tactics, Techniques, & Procedures) toward SOF on dirt bikes and four-wheelers. A Green Beret out East was badly wounded while on his dirt bike. Shortly after the team meeting, I went out back to smoke a cigarette with my friend. With the kind of morbid acceptance shared by most warriors in combat, I told my SARC what I was willing to bear. In return he shared his instructions to me should something happen to him.
My time finally came and I found myself badly wounded. In a Taliban-controlled valley, encircled by monstrous peaks, I got to experience the other side of the violent life we all embrace. After applying self-aid, I made my way back to my medic. He took charge and immediately started treatment. When I asked him if I would keep my appendage, he was honest. When I asked for the Ketamine, he was merciful.
So to that curious reader who asked about the medics of MARSOC, there you have it. To be a SARC you must make it through the intense pipeline of schools set forth. However, to be a true warrior medic there is so much more. Experiences can vary greatly in this business. Guys are locked on and guys are ate up. I was fortunate to get the former of qualities in my SARC. Had it been another medic, I may have died that day. That I didn’t is a testament to the SARC program and the caliber of Corpsman it produces.
(Featured Image Courtesy: USMC’s Marine Blog)