UNITED STATES - The commonly heard phrase in the Marine Corps, "Navy corpsmen are a Marine's best friend," sums it all up.
Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force, whether deployed or in garrison, rely heavily on the medical services provided by 2nd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.
The battalion's mission statement is to give Level II "medical support to the II MEF, during combat operations, and to be prepared to deploy on short notice in order to meet the war-fighters needs in any environment."
"No one really knows what we do," said Navy Lt. Darren Pierce, company commander, Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Medical Battalion and 2nd MLG medical planner. "When Marines say, "Corpsman up!" they want someone to answer that call and that's what we do. Every service member wants to know that their Level II surgical and trauma resuscitation is available to them right then, right there, at all times."
The battalion, though it hasn't deployed as a whole since World War II, has a high turnover rate due to augmenting personnel in support of subordinate unit deployments and various other commitments.
"While we don't deploy as a unit and while our unit is shown as not being deployed on the documents or spreadsheets, at any given time, 80 percent of our personnel may be out supporting a mission," Pierce said. "We have people going to Brazil, supporting training teams; we have folks all over the U.S. assisting units wherever there may be shortfalls fulfilling billets."
The latest major effort for the battalion was properly training and preparing their personnel to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
"The MEB was put together fairly quickly, so we had to step up to the plate, and come up with a lot of information to guide the training for those guys," said Lt. Cmdr. David Everhart, the training and operations officer. "The guiding principle was Afghanistan is not Iraq, so we changed the training to be more focused on living in an austere environment. We got our guys ready to go despite a lot of challenges."
The battalion is forced to be resourceful expeditious and flexible in their daily undertakings due to the high rotation rate.
"It's a challenge from a manning standpoint, because we have people coming and going all the time," Pierce said. "It requires a lot of strategic planning, creative swapping of personnel and constant preparation for turnovers."
The battalion often receives two different types of medical professionals; those who've been in the Navy for a period of time but have never been attached to a Marine Corps unit, and those who are fresh out of schooling and training.
The junior corpsmen come to the battalion only skilled in level 1 medical care, so it is the battalion's job to educate and train them on level 2 care.
"When we get [new corpsmen] here, we have to teach them up to level 2, which is more surgical and more like an emergency room in nature," Everhart said. "It's a whole lot of training and knowledge we're putting into folks in a very short period of time."
The level 2 care consists of training at the base's Naval hospital emergency and operating rooms, X-ray department and two weeks at the Los Angeles Trauma Center. They must be Basic Life Support certified and complete the Tactical Combat Casualty Care Course.
They also must adapt to being on a Marine Corps installation.
"Medical Battalion is definitely a change for a lot of the junior corpsmen," said Command Master Chief Betty Hardy. "This is their first interaction with the Marine Corps and we give them plenty of opportunities to learn and then put it to use. A lot of them are surprised because they don't know what to expect."
The more experienced medical professionals, who have never been attached to a Marine Corps unit, come from bases across the globe. The battalion's main training focus for those individuals is to get them ready to deploy.
"We usually have about two weeks to put them together in a cohesive unit and teach them what they need to know to deploy," Everhart said. "Many of them have never worked with Marines before, so they get a crash course in pre-deployment training and Marine Corps culture. We get them ready to do something they've never done in a forward environment."
The battalion is about two-thirds Navy personnel with Marines making up the rest of the battalion.
The Marines' jobs include supply, the armory and motor transportation.
"Medical battalion is a great place for a Marine to learn and grow because it provides a unique opportunity to interact with so many medical professionals," said Sgt. Joseph Tucker, the armory chief. "So many classes are offered here that aren't offered with other units."
All other jobs, including administration functions, are filled by corpsmen.
"They do a really good job at juggling responsibilities," said Sgt. Maj. Miguel Rodriguez, the former battalion sergeant major who now serves as the sergeant major for Headquarters and Service Company, School of Infantry-East. "I arrived at the battalion with a certain level of expectations and they were completely surpassed because of the unit's professionalism and competence."
Hardy said if a complete stranger were to visit 2nd Medical Battalion, she would want them to see one thing: a team working as one.
"I would want them to see a blue-green team working as a cohesive well-oiled machine," she said. "It's not Marines and Sailors. We are a team, we're in the fight together and we know what we have to do."
This work, 2nd Medical Battalion: 'A well oiled machine', by Cpl Casey Jones, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.