Throughout the history of the Marine Corps, the navy corpsman has played a vital role alongside Marines, cauterizing wounds on ships as far back as the Revolutionary War and the days of the Continental Navy. Even in the iconic photo for the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, Petty Officer 2nd Class John Bradley, a pharmacist's mate (a previous hospital corpsman rate), can be seen alongside Marines on Mt. Suribachi.
After nearly ten years as a corpsman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody T. West, Embedded Training Team 2, Border Advisory Team 2, began his third combat deployment with Marines, Oct. 2011.
West originally joined the Navy to become a parachute rigger and went to the Military Entrance Processing Station in, Aug. 2001, but after the attacks on the world trade center, Sept. 11, 2001, West started pushing to go to boot camp as soon as possible. In order to shorten his waiting time, West accepted a contract as a hospital corpsman.
“I’m a corpsman by accident,” West said, who hails from Colorado Springs, Colo. “If I didn’t enjoy being a corpsman, I wouldn’t still be here. I love taking care of people. I hate paperwork, but I love the results. I love seeing people feel better because of me.”
“I saw a lot of people get hurt while I was growing up, so when I went to boot camp I decided I would do this job to the best of my abilities,” continued West. “Because that’s how my mother raised me.”
At one point in his training to become a corpsman, West read and re-read “The Corpsman’s Oath” for more than 14 weeks, because of significance he saw in his occupation, he said.
According to West, the words of “The Corpsman’s Oath” held a great weight and responsibility that was to be taken very seriously, much like “The Hippocratic Oath” that doctors take when they graduate medical school.
West was selected to participate in operation bulldog after graduating from Field Medical Training Battalion East in the summer of 2003. In May, 2004, West deployed with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment to Afghanistan as a platoon corpsman. He returned from the deployment, Dec. 2004, and was selected to go through an accelerated Emergency Medical Technicians course.
West utilized his emergency training by working in ambulances and emergency care in Norfolk, Va., with the Navy, before attaching to 3rd Bn. 6th Reg. again for a second combat deployment with the Marine Corps. Promptly after checking into 3rd. Bn., 6th Reg., West began work ups to prepare for Iraq.
“One important thing I’ve learned is that when you get to a new unit you have to learn the rhythm of it and get into it. They won’t conform to your way of doing things so the best way to get along with people and become a part of the team is just to do things their way,” West said. “I’ve made a lot of friends along the way by doing that.”
He arrived in Iraq in Sept. 2006, and after being selected by the battalion commander, served as the personal security detail corpsman until 3rd Bn. 6th Reg. left Iraq in April 2007.
In Feb. 2008, West went on limited duty due to post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries suffered during his Iraq deployment. However, it didn’t stop him from being a corpsman or continuing to seek out opportunities to deploy and work with Marines. West re-enlisted in the Navy for six more years, Oct. 2009.
“You see and do a lot of things in this job, and you have to have a sense of humor, otherwise you’ll lose your mind,” he said. “I have worked for some really good people and had really good people train me. That’s part of what has kept me going through all these years.”
In Dec. 2009, West received orders to 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion and deployed to South America as part of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Continuing Promise 2010, before being sent to II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group for his third combat deployment.
Now as the team corpsman for his own embedded training team, West works within the Border Advisory Team 2, helping to train Afghans as well as providing the skills of an experienced corpsman to the Marines he works with.
“He’s a Corpsman dedicated to his Marines,” 1st Lt. Lee T. Robertson, team leader, ETT 2, BAT 2. “He’s just so passionate about what he does and how he does things. He knows how to handle himself in every sort of situation and is a welcome addition to the team.”
Embedded Training Team 2 is composed of only three Marines and a corpsman who mentor, train and guide Afghan Border Police on a daily basis.
“We operate by ourselves with the Afghan police and the skills that HM2 West are a vital part of completing our mission,” continued Robertson, a native of Harleysville, Pa.
So far, West has spent every day of the deployment working with the same small group of Marines. According to him, his purpose as a Corpsman never changes, but the level of camaraderie on this particular deployment is higher than most.
“Out here the reason I keep going and what keeps me motivated is pretty simple,” he said. “It’s these Marines, and wanting to do the best for them. You get to do more and go more places than anyone else in the Navy. You are only limited by yourself in this job.”
Article by Cpl. Daniel Wulz, Regional Command Southwest