Week 3 – Corpsmen and Chaplains

Another busy week here in beautiful, sunny Jacksonville, North Carolina and I am so happy it’s finally the weekend!  We are very busy with our predeployment training package (PTP), trying to finish up before most of the Marines go on leave (AKA, vacation) this next week.  Monday consisted mostly of staff meetings, both our internal meetings and the battalion staff meeting.  I did get to the post office to pick up the two books I had ordered on company command, and was very excited to get those.  Now I have some reading to do, command philosophy to develop and things to think about over the next few weeks. 

Tuesday I met with our Navy hospital corpsman (a medical specialist serving with the Marines) to go over medical readiness for our unit.  For those at all unfamiliar with what the Marine Corps depends on the Navy to provide (other than money for its aircraft!), allow me a moment to explain.   Being the strong war fighting organization that it is, the Marine Corps does not have any medical personnel or chaplain (religious) personnel.  Being the great war fighting organization that it is, the Marines are also in great need of both medical and spiritual services.   Our corpsmen and chaplains are some of the most beloved individuals in the Marine Corps, who usually purposefully choose to work with the Marines and are very proud to serve with Marines.

The corpsmen sometimes enjoy their jobs a little too much.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they enjoy the Marine Corps so much?  During my meeting, “Doc” informed me that I was due for three shots – anthrax, smallpox and typhoid.  Ah, joy.   And there is such glee in their voices when they tell you how many shots you need this year.  What, only three?

Wanting to lead by example, I went straight to the clinic.   Typhoid is now a 4 pills over 10 days experience.  Evidently, it’s much cheaper to use pills rather than a shot (bless the frugality of the Marine Corps), which means I get to return to the clinic every other day to complete the series.  Anthrax was easy, and smallpox will have to wait until just before we get on the plane.  Three days later, my arm was still sore from the anthrax shot.  Thank you, Navy Medicine!

Since I’ve discussed the corpsmen, I will take a moment to tell you about our chaplain as well.  We are very fortunate to have access to a Navy chaplain (through our parent battalion) here at Camp Lejeune.  He’s a fantastic gentleman, as most of them are, who is acutely aware of the special spiritual needs Marines have.  Most often, the Chaplain provides a friendly and understanding ear in an otherwise extremely demanding environment. 

In the three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve had more than a little contact with the Chaplain.  He has shown up two Saturdays in a row, as part of the farewell reception held for Marines deploying forward.  During this time, he walks around, talking to the Marines and their families, providing an understanding ear and some reassuring words before the long separation begins.  

A week ago, he helped me with my “troubled” Marine.  When we discovered the Marine was dealing with some issues at home, we decided a visit to the chaplain was in order.  One of our Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) took the Marine up to the Chaplain – for a little counseling and a lot of listening.   The Chaplain called me after the meeting, offering his insights and recommendations. 

Just this week, the Boston Marathon bombings offered us another reason to call on the Chaplain.  We have 4 Marines from the Boston/Massachusetts area, and 2 were from the immediate vicinity of the race.  We were not sure what these Marines might be thinking or experiencing, but my MSgt (my right hand man, remember, and my eyes and ears of the Marines) suggested that we might offer a visit to the Chaplain for these Marines.  Anything that they might not feel comfortable talking about with their leaders, the Chaplain could provide that safe space to talk and to feel.  Thank you to all of our corpsmen and chaplains!

Most of the rest of the week was constant meetings with my staff, classes (Legal Officer’s Course, Law of War and Code of Conduct, and Media Awareness) and getting Marines ready to go on leave.  The PFT took place on Friday – but that merits its own blog entry!  Still loving my job, still believe I have the best job in the world, and that life really doesn’t get any better than this.

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