CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Navy personnel have traditionally worked closely with the Marines, either as corpsmen healing combat wounds or as chaplains healing the spiritual gashes. But one Navy ‘doc’ with the 2nd Marine Division took it a step further and trained to become one of the few sailors who have earned a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
Lieutenant James Morris, a 32-year-old Kearny, Ariz., native who coordinates all medical evacuation in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, is the top man on the Patient Evacuation Team. The officer-in-charge is an emergency room trauma nurse by trade, but this job adds another level to the experience, according to him.
“Based on the type of injury, we can evacuate anyone within an area the size of North Carolina in 52 minutes,” said Morris, who was formerly an enlisted man in the Air Force with a military police training unit. “When I left the Air Force, I found that nursing was an admirable career field. I enjoyed my military time, so I applied for a commission and the Navy picked me up. Now, I’m part of a team that is extremely important to the success of the division.”
In the combat operations center here, where all operational plans for the division’s ground forces are blue-printed, Morris monitors a screen that tracks casualty reports. It’s not an E.R., but it has another kind of intensity that provokes the senses, according to Morris. Working with Marines inspired him to join in the martial arts training.
“I noticed Marines were walking around with different color belts and I heard about the martial arts program,” said Morris. “I earned my tan belt for fun, then I got interested enough to go the whole distance.
“I wanted to start before we deployed here, but with all of the training I didn’t have time to get accepted into the culture,” said Morris. “When it came time to train, I enjoyed learning the moves and the camaraderie – and the discipline itself is intriguing. It’s a mix of different martial arts disciplines to include judo.”
Growing up, Morris was a brown belt in Judo. He already knew that martial arts was a discipline only reserved for the few who could respect the art, but he didn’t know how intense the MCMAP program would be.
“This was very different than anything I’d ever done. It toppled my brown belt training,” said Morris. “One night we were showering up after training and somebody in the shower noticed our bruises all over our chests from body hardening. We just laughed.”
Morris soon found that his job here is comparable to some of the challenges he’s already taken in his life. Not too long ago, Morris applied to be the president’s nurse. He was selected to be one of four to vie for the coveted position.
He didn’t make the cut, but his time here has made him realize what he would have missed had he not deployed with Marines. Besides, he’s planning to apply again for the program after his stint with the division. And maybe this time, he’ll have learned something from the Marines that will help to push him over the top.
“It’s exciting to work here, that’s why I chose the job,” said Morris. “It’s both a physical and mental challenge. But best of all, I have a different and closer commitment to the Marines now.