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Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins

3/4 turns corpsmen into FMF warriors

2 Sep 2005 | Lance Cpl. Paul Robbins

Sitting just above the left breast pocket, symbolizing the connection of corpsmen and Marines, the Fleet Marine Force Warfare Device is a coveted award amongst the Navy’s hospital corpsmen. In the six and a half months that 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-8, has been here, 41 corpsmen and one religious programs specialist from the battalion have earned the right to wear the device. With the intensive study and frequent classes required to earn the pin, all while working in a combat zone, this is no small feat for the sailors of the battalion. “This is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Chief Petty Officer Maurice Wilson, 43-year-old senior medical department representative for the battalion. To achieve Fleet Marine Force qualification, prospective sailors must demonstrate the fundamentals of Marine Corps history, communications, weapons systems, ground combat, land navigation and numerous other Marine Corps and combat related topics. The knowledge is demonstrated through the completion of an instructional booklet which requires an 80 percent or above score on a written exam and passing a practical application exam to demonstrate proficiency in the learned skills. “It takes hundreds of hours of hands on training and study time to prepare for these exams,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kirk P. Hendges, 32-year-old leading petty officer for the battalion. Along with the problem of finding the time between operations for study and classes, rotating corpsmen in and out of the line companies for the training also made the process extremely difficult. However, the staff of the battalion was more than willing to work with the sailors in getting it done, according to Hendges, a native of Manistee, Mich. “If it wasn’t for the support of the battalion leadership, we wouldn’t have had this much success,” Hendges said. With battalion support, sailor driven study groups, and Marine support for classes, more than 75 percent of the battalion’s sailors earned their FMF qualification during this deployment. The battalion sees the high rate of qualification as a reflection of the sailors’ commitment to the team, according to Wilson, a native of Wilmington, N.C.“Considering the environment we’re in, I’m very happy with the results,” Wilson said. “It shows you how dedicated they are to the Navy/Marine Corps team.” Although the individual sailors are proud of the group’s achievement, the biggest reward for their efforts is the message sent to their fellow sailors who work with the “Big Navy”, according to Seaman Adam Mora, a 20-year-old hospital corpsman with the battalion. “In a way it separates us,” said Mora, a native of Pomona, Calif. “It let’s the rest of the Navy know who’s been with the Marines.” The battalion hopes to qualify the remaining 13 corpsmen upon their return to Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twenty-nine Palms, Calif.