Photo Information

Camp Hadithah Dam, Hadithah, Al Anbar (June 17,2005) -- Hospitalman Robert D. Bush loosens the bandage on an injured Iraqi girl's head. The 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines Battalion Aid Station is equipped to handle routine sick call to combat trauma injuries. The corpsmen are on call 24 hours-a-day for treating the injured.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Marc Fencil

Haditha Dam: Hospital Corpsmen celebrate 107th birthday

17 Jun 2005 | Lance Cpl. Marc Fencil

The grilled T-bone steaks, nonalcoholic “near beer” and a driving range could have been part of an outing to the country club back in the States. Instead, it was just the Sailors of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines celebrating the 107th birthday of the Navy Hospital Corps on the top deck of Haditha Dam. The Hospital Corps was commissioned June 17, 1898, although a Navy medical department has existed since the Colonial period. Sailors and Marines have a shared history because of the way field hospitalmen, known as corpsmen, are integrated into infantry units. “Wherever you find the Navy, wherever you find the Marine Corps, there you will find Navy Hospital Corpsmen,” read Petty Officer 1st Class Eric J. Zimmerman from a written piece that he prepared for the occasion. After congratulating the corpsmen on their anniversary, battalion commander Lt. Col. Lionel B. Urquhart expressed his gratitude for their service. He emphasized that several Marines recovering from wounds would not be alive today if it were not for the corpsmen. The battalion’s chaplain, Lt. Richard E. Malmstrom, led the group in the Navy Corpsman’s prayer before the men got in the chow line. Many corpsmen consider the event more important to them personally than the Navy’s actual birthday. “We have a better sense of self-worth as well as the pride of being not only the most decorated, but also the only enlisted Corps in the Navy,” boasted Petty Officer 3rd Class Aragorn T. Wold. “Most Fleet Marine Force corpsmen are more Marine than Navy,” contended the 22-year-old corpsman. “Few green-side corpsmen want to go back to blue-side commands when they’re done with their tours,” said the Greensboro, N.C. native. The colors refer to how commands are labeled as “green” if Navy personnel work within a Marine Corps command and “blue” if in a strictly Navy installation such as a naval hospital. All corpsmen, regardless of their blue or green histories, are thankful for the opportunity to cherish their rich heritage in good company. “It is a uniting of hospital corpsmen where we celebrate an ongoing tradition, no matter where we are at,” explained Petty Officer 1st Class Glenn E. Minney, 38, a pharmacy and supply corpsman from Chillicothe, Ohio. This was the first birthday celebration for several junior corpsmen, but several birthday veterans were also present. “I have celebrated on ships, in hospitals, in garrison on naval bases and now, in the middle of the desert,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward W. Barnett. “It’s not quite as elaborate and flashy as the Navy birthday ball. It is more about the camaraderie between the Marines and their corpsmen that stems from the way we are integrated on the battlefield,” explained the 37-year-old Sailor from Elyria, Ohio. Barnett, now in the reserves, has served in the Navy for 17 years. “My most memorable celebration was in 1994 when I worked for the Camp Johnson Branch Clinic. The food service chow hall invited us to come have steak and lobster with the corpsmen who were still in school,” recalled Barnett. All corpsmen who work with Marine units must complete the field medic course at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. or Camp Johnson aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Following dinner, the corpsmen broke out their drivers and boxes of golf balls for the “driving range” that they set up on the roof of the ten-story dam. Except for a few ricochets off storage containers, the Sailors’ drives landed harmlessly in Qadisiyah Lake or on the steep, rocky slopes of the manmade berm that hold back its waters. “I am relieved that our corpsmen spend their time perfecting their medical skills instead of their golf game,” smirked Urquhart as he watched the birthday revelry.