AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Military training of any kind is inherently dangerous, which is why Marines always have a corpsman nearby to help treat any injuries on the spot. This is especially true of training missions in a combat zone dealing with a new and often under-trained military.
With the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment training the Iraqi Army in a combat zone, corpsmen such as Seaman Ryan Zess are more important than ever.
Recently Marines with Company I conducted a patrol with members of the IA in order to see the progress the Iraqi soldiers have made since the Marines began working with them four months ago. For Zess, a 19-year-old from St. Clair Shores, Mich., being out with the IA means being prepared for anything.
“We took the IA out and made sure they patrolled correctly and that if they took contact that we would be around to help protect them,” said the Lake View High School graduate. “If we take any contact or any casualties, it’s my job to patch them up. I also help any civilians that I can if something happens to them.”
Although taking care of Marines is something every corpsman is trained to do, being prepared to handle Iraqi soldiers and the language barrier was a surprise.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I found out I was coming here,” said Zess. “I am just taking it as it comes. When I first got here, I didn’t feel prepared. But now, after being here for a while I feel ready for whatever happens. It’s all part of the experience of being here.”
Along with being prepared for any casualties that the Marines or IA may take during a patrol, Zess has become accustomed to being part of the Marine squads who conduct the raids and sweeps through the city during the ongoing stabilization missions here.
“I’ve learned so much just dealing with the Iraqi’s and Marines doing patrolling,” he said. “I’ve learned the tactics the Marines use, how to do the things they do. My Marines have taught me a lot.”
Now that he is more than halfway through his first deployment with a Marine unit, he said he is glad that he got to do something in the medical field while still working with the Marines.
“I wanted to do something medical and still be in the Navy, so I worked to become a corpsman,” he said. “I am glad I did. I love it, working with the Marines here. People back home don’t know that many of the people here want us here helping them. We get to see it in these people’s eyes, the reactions of the civilians we come across.”