CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- It was a small piece of metal, freshly placed above his uniform’s left breast pocket, but Petty Officer 3rd Class Troy Antoine stood tall with pride as it was pinned on.
On that torrid afternoon July 5, the 28-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. native and three other Navy corpsmen with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment were presented with their Fleet Marine Force pins.
The FMF pin was adopted by the Navy enlisted ranks in July 2000 to recognize Sailors who demonstrate concept mastery over 14 core subjects, including Marine history, weapons systems operation, and ground forces structure and employment.
The corpsmen earn their pin upon passing a series of written, oral and practical application exams that show their skill proficiency. Hands-on portions of the test include land navigation, field radio operation, and M16 service rifle and M9 pistol marksmanship skills.
“You have to study consistently and know your fair share about Marines,” said Antoine, a former student of LaGuardia Community College. “We work with these concepts everyday, so when we’re questioned over them, it’s not really that difficult.”
Though this material was easy for Antoine to grasp, it is nonetheless invaluable. The information these sailors amass while studying for their FMF designation makes them more valuable assets to their Marine counterparts, added Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Slone, a fellow FMF pin recipient.
“For the corpsmen serving with Marines on the front lines, this (FMF designation) gives them a better understanding of why they conduct certain operations and do certain maneuvers,” the 35-year-old Mendon, Mich. native continued. “It makes us well-rounded. We can better support the Marines by knowing more of what’s going on around us.”
The corpsmen spend considerable time earning this knowledge, Antoine added.
“You have about 12 to18 months to complete it (FMF study course), but you try to do it within the first three to four months,” he explained.
Antoine and his fellow ‘docs’ did exactly this to earn their pins in approximately 90 days.
“We were constantly quizzing each other, asking one another questions even during chow,” Antoine added.
Despite the operational requirements of running their field hospital here, known as the battalion aid station, the corpsmen made time to study approximately one to two hours daily, he continued. On July 5, the long nights spent studying paid off, as Antoine and the other sailors sported their newly-presented silver FMF pin.
“You really feel like you’ve accomplished something that you set out to do,” Antoine stated. “It felt really good having it put on me. It shows that we’re not just here to patch wounds, but able to jump out and do what Marines do, too.”
Also awarded FMF pins were Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Jorges from Coon Rapids, Minn.; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Phillip Jean-Gilles from Miami.