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Fleet Marine Warfare Specialists: Marine Corps knowledge for a combat Navy

By Gunnery Sgt. Shannon Arledge | | May 15, 2005

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Three sailors from Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, are now Enlisted Fleet Marine Force Warfare Specialists. The sailors were decorated with the Fleet Marine Force Warfare pin May 15.Petty Officer 1st Class Dennis Self, from Birmingham, Ala., Petty Officer 3rd Class Dale Wolkenhauer, a native of Clearlake, Calif., and Seaman Joseph Tibbits from Saginaw, Mich., stand out among the ranks wearing one of the U.S. Navy’s newest warfare designators. The sailors endured more than 100 hours of intense written and practical application to qualify for the pin that was adopted into the U.S. Navy enlisted ranks in July 2000. The sailors were required to master 14 core subjects ranging from Marine Corps history and weapons systems to understand the Marine Air Ground Task Force concept of tailoring forces to meet the specific needs of a mission. “I feel I can better speak the common language of a corpsman with the Marines,” said Self. “It’s like I’m finally part of the Marines I serve. Should I be needed, I will be better equipped to assist the Marines in accomplishing the mission.”Mastering the subjects was a lengthy process and these shipmates not only passed a written exam, as well as meeting other administrative qualifications, but were required to go before a series of oral boards, totaling four to six hours. “I have a better understanding of the Fleet Marine Force, the equipment, techniques and procedures and efforts set forth by our Marines,” said Wolkenhauer. “I already have tremendous respect and gratitude for the Marines. Achieving this has encouraged me to strive harder to provide the best medical care possible for our Marines.”These three sailors are part of the unit’s medical team providing care for more than 1,200 Marines and sailors here. Included in their daily medical routine, they convoy with the unit and also support explosive ordnance disposal on missions to detect improvised explosive devices. Their mission as U.S. Navy corpsmen place them side-by-side their Marine brothers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.“These sailors have proven they can acquire essential knowledge inherent to the combat forces we support, increasing their ability to understand and support the mission,” said Chief Petty Officer John M. Westfield, a native of Dallas, Pa., and senior enlisted medical corpsman. “In my opinion there is no more appropriate place than to be in a combat zone and qualify for this device.”“This is a great accomplishment,” said Tibbits. “I’ve studied hard and feel more prepared to serve alongside the Marines here. I’ve been preparing for this for two years, and now I have a better understanding of the Marine Corps and its components.”Westfield says this program provides sailors with much needed information and skills. He stated that if these sailors were on a mission and came under fire they could not only serve as corpsmen but step up to the plate and assist the Marines in defeating the enemy.“Candidates must exhibit extreme proficiency in all subjects, to include demonstration of land navigation essentials, weapons (usually 9mm and M16A2) and put together and operate a field radio,” added Westfield. “It takes a lot of personal commitment and time, often hours and days of studying to become proficient. It makes better sailors all the way around and that's what we want. Simply stated, knowledge is power.”
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