CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Treating a scorpion bite, healing an abscess and removing shards of shrapnel from a friend’s arm is all in a day’s work for men like Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Jorges and his fellow corpsmen.
The 23-year-old Coon Rapids, Minn. native’s team mans 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s field hospital, known as the battalion aid station. From bug bites to bellyaches, the ‘docs’ keep their Marines on their feet and in the fight to continue providing security and stability to Fallujah’s residents.
“A lot of stuff we see everyday is just basic ‘sick call’ stuff,” said Jorges, a 2000 Spring Lake Park High School graduate, referring to how the corpsmen mostly treat acute conditions like colds, minor infections and ingrown toenails. “Thankfully, the actual trauma injuries we’ve treated have been very few so far.”
Everyday, Jorges’ BAS personnel treat Marines around the camp for all sorts of illnesses, including those common to Iraq’s desert environment.
“The dirt around here is filled with lots of contaminants, so we handle a lot of gastrointestinal problems,” explained Navy Lt. Brendon Drew, the battalion’s surgeon. “My corpsmen handle all sorts of problems ranging from respiratory to eye infections.”
Jorges added that with proper hygiene, many of these problems have been prevented thus far. Because of this, he said the medical team usually sees few patients everyday.
However, the sailors keep ready to respond to any emergency.
“When we’re not treating patients, we’re checking over their medical records to make sure everything is up-to-date,” Jorges said. “We also do patrols with the camp guard force, where we go out and look for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and insurgent activity around this area making sure it’s safe for everyone inside the camp.”
Jorges or one of his fellow corpsmen also accompany the Marine sentries patrolling Baharia’s perimeter and neighboring fields.
Meanwhile, ‘docs’ manning the BAS listen to incoming radio traffic and stand ready to respond to medical crises.
They do not wait for a mission to spring to action, however. At least once per week, the corpsmen travel to operational bases throughout Fallujah to re-supply the ‘docs’ attached to the battalion’s infantry companies. BAS personnel also use these trips to conduct periodic health and sanitation inspections.
“We emphasize hygiene, hygiene, and more hygiene all the time around here,” stated Hospitalman 2nd Class Ebennezer Atekwana, a BAS corpsman. “We do all we can to support the Marines out there and make sure they stay healthy.”
Jorges added that this operational support makes the corpsmen’s missions “harder than one might realize they are.”
“We’re out there carrying the exact same stuff the Marines are ballistic armor, helmet, weapons and ammunition, plus all of our medical gear,” he continued. “Most of us have all the training the Marines have, as far as radio operation and patrolling procedures. A lot of us are trained up fully on military history and different weapons systems.”
As a veteran of a 2004 combat tour in Afghanistan, Jorges said he has seen his share of action.
“I’ve been a corpsman for about four years and nine months,” he stated. “I absolutely love treating Marines; there’s no other job I’d rather do. They are our fighting force out here, helping keep our country free. Anyway I can help them out is great.”
Although he has enjoyed several aspects of military service, Jorges is also ready for a change of pace.
“I’ve had my ups and downs in the military, the ‘ups’ being a corpsman and treating Marines. Through all the things I’ve done, I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge. The way we always have to adapt and overcome by being limited on manpower and supplies have taught me to cope with extreme situations.”
Jorges will use this experience to further his medical know-how.
“I plan on getting my nursing degree and specializing in ER care,” he continued. “I think, with all of the things I’ve learned here, that I’ll definitely be ahead of a lot of people when I go to college.”
For now, Jorges keeps his eye on the prize, as he and his fellow corpsmen keep their Marines fit to fight terrorism here.