AL ASAD, Iraq -- Walking among the Marines, they stand ready to provide the urgent medical care needed in a forward operating location. They are well trained and demonstrate a high level of esprit de corps any Marine would appreciate.
The corpsmen of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, are prepared. They understand that the Marines of this squadron and other units here depend on their ability to know their job. These sailors provide immediate life saving treatment as necessary for a combat environment, and operate a clinic for just about every ailment a person can complain of.
"Since we arrived (almost three months ago), we've seen more than 700 Marines, some with major and some with minor injuries," said Chief Petty Officer John M. Westfield, 37, and Dallas, Pa., native. "Our training has prepared us for this fight. Most days are quiet, but you never know when the enemy may get lucky."
Daily training to hone lifesaving skills is part of the professional growth of these sailors. The training also includes the Marines they serve beside. They recently taught the procedures for inserting intravenous tubes or IVs. This classroom instruction wasn't your typical slide show. The class came with a practical application, which meant each Marine would practice their technique on each other.
"If we are on a convoy and multiple Marines need immediate medical attention the corpsman may not be able to start an IV," said Hospital Corpsman Kyle W. Carswell, 20, who hails from Morganton, N.C. "It's important that the Marines know how to do this, if the doc is treating another patient."
An elite group of Marines called the Immediate Response Team from MWSS-271 often travels outside the base perimeter. These Marines have logged more than 50 convoys since they arrived.
"When we go outside the wire anything can happen. We need to be ready, and this class taught me everything I needed," said Lance Cpl. Adam L. Torrez, 21, who calls Rocky Ford, Colo., home. "This was the first time I actually performed an IV, and I was nervous, but my 'patient' was cooperative."
"I love this," said Hospital Corpsman Joseph E. Perkins. "Being along side Marines has been the favorite part of my job. They're like brothers and we have a great bond; I'd do anything for them and they'd do anything for me. It means a lot that they learn from these classes," added the 21-year-old from Middletown, Ohio.
Close to 30 sailors make up the medical unit providing care for more than 1,200 Marines and sailors here. They utilize radiography equipment and have the ability to perform laboratory tests, issue medications, and provide the majority of preventive medicine for the forward operating bases of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
"We were picked to do a specific job here, and we've been doing it," said Lt.Cmdr. Michael J. Walt, senior medical officer, from Madison, Pa. "Some days are better than others, but, despite the challenges all deployed units face, I'm very happy to be here. When it is all said and done, this is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had."
Petty Officer 3rd Class Emily A. Dooley, 23, is no stranger to the gory images battle may bring. She deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2003 and saw first hand the carnage of war. Although her unit is ready to provide trauma care, she isn't disappointed in the lack of battle wounded.
"I'm very grateful for the cold and flu, separated shoulders and sprained ankles," she said. "I'm also glad I'm able to provide a service to the Iraqi people. It's great to be doing something so they can one day enjoy the daily freedoms we do," added the Satellite Beach, Fla., native.
"We are working as a motivated group," said Lt. j.g. Hank L. Bradbury, physicians assistant, 31, from Albuquerque, N.M. "These sailors come from different platforms (job specialties) and have integrated well. They have team spirit, and are improving professionally."
The corpsmen of MWSS-271 serve throughout Iraq. They provide valued care to the Marines near the Syrian border, and as far south as Al Taqaddum, Iraq. They fly daily missions into harms way on the battlefield during casualty evacuations and travel alongside Marines searching for improvised explosive devices. They man the guns, and provide cover for the Marines when necessary. The sailors ensure Marines are fit to fight, allowing them to sustain their efforts in the battle for a free Iraq.
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