Hospital Corpsman

Hospital Corpsman

Hospital Corpsman (HM) is a rating in the United States Navy and a member of the Navy's Hospital Corps. Hospital corpsmen serve as enlisted medical specialists for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The Hospital Corpsman serves in a wide variety of capacities and locations, including shore establishments such as naval hospitals and clinics, aboard ships as the primary medical caregivers for sailors while underway, or with Marine Corps units.The colloquial form of address for a Corpsman is "Doc".


Prior to the establishment of the Hospital Corps, enlisted medical support in the Navy was limited in scope. In the Continental Navy and the early US Navy, medical assistants were assigned at random out of the ship's company. They were commonly referred to as Loblolly Boys, a term borrowed from the British Royal Navy and a reference to the daily ration of porridge fed to the sick. The nickname was in common use for so many years that it was finally officially recognized by the Navy Regulations of 1814. In coming decades, the title of the enlisted medical assistant would change several times - from Loblolly Boy, to Nurse (1861), and finally to Bayman (1876). A senior enlisted medical rate, Surgeon's Steward, was introduced in 1841 and remained through the Civil War. Following the war, the title Surgeon's Steward was abolished in favor of Apothecary, a position requiring completion of a course in pharmacy.

Still, there existed pressure to reform the enlisted component of the Navy's medical department - medicine as a science was advancing rapidly, foreign navies had begun training medically skilled sailors, and even the US Army had established an enlisted Hospital Corps. Navy Surgeon General J.R Tyron and subordinate physicians lobbied the Navy administration to take action. With the Spanish-American War looming, Congress passed a bill authorizing establishment of the US Navy Hospital Corps, signed into law by President William McKinley on 17 June 1898. A revision in 1916 established the rates of Hospital Apprentice and Pharmacist's Mate, a structure that would remain in place for over thirty years.

During World War I, Corpsmen served throughout the fleet, earning particular distinction on the Western Front with the Marine Corps. A total of 684 personal awards were awarded to Corpsmen in the war, including 2 Medals of Honor, 55 Navy Crosses, and 237 Silver Stars.

In World War II, Hospital Corpsmen hit the beach with Marines in every battle in the Pacific. Joe Rosenthal's iconic photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, captured during that battle's early days, depicts Pharmacist's Mate Second Class John Bradley among the group of Marines on Mt. Suribachi that day. They also served on thousands of ships and submarines. Notably, three unassisted emergency appendectomies were performed by Corpsmen serving undersea and beyond hope of medical evacuation. The Hospital Corps has the distinction of being the only corps in the U.S. Navy to be singled out in a famous speech by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal after the conclusion of the war. []

Hospital Corpsmen continued to serve at sea and ashore, and accompanied Marine units into battle during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Fifteen Corpsmen were counted among the dead following the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Today, Corpsmen are serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Prior to selection to the Command Master Chief program, the current (July 10, 2006 - ) MCPON, Joe R. Campa, was a Hospital Corpsman.

Hospital Corpsmen in the Maritime Service

During World War II, the United States Maritime Service created a Hospital Corps similar to the Navy's and sent pursers through this Hospital Corpsman training, to serve in a combined administrative and medical role on civilian tankers, freighters, and oilers. Prior to this, there were no competent trained personnel to perform first aid onboard these vessels. The Purser-Corpsmen were trained in anatomy, physiology, pharmacy, clinical laboratory, hygiene and sanitation, emergency treatment, first aid, and nursing. They were taught how to administer injections, treat compound fractures, administer blood plasma, and suture wounds.

The Maritime Service’s Hospital Corps School was founded at the Sheepshead Bay training station on December 7 1942. Surgeon S.S. Heilwell (R), United States Uniformed Public Health Service, was placed in charge of training. The course was taught over four months, with a 12 week period of didactic classroom experience and four weeks of practical experience at a marine hospital. The original class of 331 students resulted in 239 graduates on March 12 1943. But, demand saw an increase in the class to 600 students, to cycle in 50 student classes starting on a weekly basis. Training stations were instructed to provide careful scrutiny by examining boards for all candidates. Pursers on sea duty started arriving at the station on August 10 1943. By January 1 1944, there were 600 Purser-Corpsman at sea, with 1,324 graduates in the Maritime Service.

Selection required an above average mark on the General Classification Test and definite interest in both administration and health care. A survey reveals that the men have an IQ average of 130 and two years of college. Pursers entering the hospital school are given ratings according to the length of time they have spent at sea. Those serving less than six months are given Chief Petty Officer ratings and those with more than six months at sea receive Ensign Ratings. Of the 50 men who enter the school each week, 30 are Pursers and 20 were apprentice seaman.

* Work Cited: Mast Magazine May 1944, Mast Magazine August 1944, Mast Magazine May 1945


Because of the need for Hospital Corpsmen in a vast array of foreign, domestic, and shipboard duty stations, as well as with United States Marine Corps units, the Hospital Corps is the largest rating in the United States Navy.

The basic training for Hospital Corpsmen is Naval Hospital Corps School located in Great Lakes, IL, one of the Navy's "A" schools (primary rating training). Upon graduation, the Hospital Corpsman is given the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) code of HM-0000, or "quad-zero" in common usage. NECs are analogous to MOS in the United States Army and Marine Corps, or AFSC in the Air Force. There are primary NECs, and secondary NECs. For example, a Hospital Corpsman that completes Field Medical Service School (FMSS) and earns the NEC HM-8404, moves that NEC to primary and has a secondary NEC of HM-0000. If that Corpsman attends a "C" School, then the NEC earned at the "C" School becomes their primary and HM-8404 becomes the secondary. Some Hospital Corpsmen go on to receive more specialized training in roles such as Medical Laboratory Technician, Radiology Technician, Aviation/Aerospace Medicine Specialist, Pharmacy Technician, Operating Room Technician, etc. This advanced education is done through "C" schools, which confer additional NECs. Additionally, corpsmen E-5 and up may attend "B" school, qualifying for independent duty in surface ships and submarines, with diving teams,and FMF recon teams, as well as at remote shore installations. In addition to advanced medical training, these corpsmen receive qualification in sanitation and public health.

Of note is Field Medical Service School (FMSS), with locations at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune, where Sailors bound for service with United States Marine Corps operating forces earn the NEC HM-8404, Field Medical Service Technician. FMSS provides specialized training in advanced emergency medicine and the fundamentals of Marine Corps life, while emphasizing physical conditioning, small arms familiarity, and basic battlefield tactics. As of 2001, this rigorous training is seven weeks long. [cite web |url= |title=FMSS Student Handbook |accessdate=2007-10-23 |publisher=Brookside Press] Training for the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) familiarizes Navy Corpsmen with the Marines. (The Marine Corps does not have medical personnel of their own.) A bond and mutual respect is often formed between Marines and their assigned Corpsmen, Corpsman earning respect apart from their Navy shipmates. FMF Corpsman have the option to wear the tan and green USMC uniform with blue rating insignia, or the traditional Navy uniform, if the individual meets the Marine Corps physical fitness standards. It has been proposed that all male hospital corpsmen be required to attend FMF school.

Corpsmen can further specialize, becoming Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen (SARC). SARC are usually found in Force Reconnaissance and MARSOC units. They are trained and skilled in combat, including combatant swimming, opened/closed circuit SCUBA diving, military free-fall and amphibious operations. SARC act as advisers regarding health and injury prevention, and treat illnesses from decompression sickness as well as other conditions requiring hyperbaric treatment. These corpsmen generally are redesignated as SO, Special Warfare Operator, upon meeting the requirements for that rating. Corpsmen who have received the warfare designator of Enlisted Fleet Marine Force Warfare Specialist are highly trained members of the Hospital Corps who specialize in all aspects of working with the United States Marine Corps operating forces. Attainment of this designation is highly prized among all Corpsmen. The Enlisted Fleet Marine Force Warfare designation for Corpsmen is the only US Navy warfare device awarded solely by a US Marine Corps General Officer, or designee. This awarding authority cannot be delegated to US Navy Officers.

Be they assigned to hospital ships, reservist installations, recruiter offices, or Marine Corps combat units, the rating of Hospital Corpsman is the most decorated in the United States Navy with 28 Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Medals, 946 Silver Stars, and 1,582 Bronze Stars. [cite web
title=Happy 105th Birthday To The Hospital Corps
author=BMC Mayport
] There have been 14 naval ships that have been named after hospital corpsmen. Assignment to Navy facilities and ships is referred to as going "Blueside" and serving with Marines is considered going "Greenside."

A common description of 8404 hospital corpsmen could be found in the 1980 book, "Green Side Out Marine Corps Sea-Stories" by H. G. Duncan and W. T. Moore, Jr. -- "A long haired, bearded, Marine-hatin' Sailor with certain medical skills, who would go through the very gates of Hell to tend to a wounded Marine."

Hospital Corpsman Pledge

"I solemnly pledge myself before God and these witnesses to practice faithfully all of my duties as a member of the Hospital Corps. I hold the care of the sick and injured to be a privilege and a sacred trust and will assist the Medical Officer with loyalty and honesty. I will not knowingly permit harm to come to any patient. I will not partake of nor administer any unauthorized medication. I will hold all personal matters pertaining to the private lives of patients in strict confidence. I dedicate my heart, mind and strength to the work before me. I shall do all within my power to show in myself an example of all that is honorable and good throughout my naval career."

Hospital Corpsman Prayer

Grant me, oh Lord, for the coming events; Enough knowledge to cope and some plain common sense. Be at our side on those nightly patrols; And be merciful judging our vulnerable souls. Make my hands steady and as sure as a rock; when the others go down with a wound or in shock. Let me be close, when they bleed in the mud; With a tourniquet handy to save precious blood. Here in the jungle, the enemy near; Even the corpsman can't offer much lightness and cheer. Just help me, oh Lord, to save lives when I can;
Because even out there is merit in man. If It's Your will, make casualties light; And don't let any die in the murderous night. These are my friends I'm trying to save; They are frightened at times, but You know they are brave. Let me not fail when they need so much; But to help me serve with a compassionate touch. Lord, I'm no hero -- my job is to heal; And I want You to know Just how helpless I feel. Bring us back safely to camp with dawn;For too many of us are already gone. Lord bless my friends If that's part of your plan;And go with us tonight, when we go out again."

Today's Corpsman Rate/Rating Structure

*HR - Hospitalman Recruit (E-1)
*HA - Hospitalman Apprentice (E-2)
*HN - Hospitalman (E-3)
*HM3 - Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E-4)
*HM2 - Hospital Corpsman Second Class (E-5)
*HM1 - Hospital Corpsman First Class (E-6)
*HMC - Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-7)
*HMCS - Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-8)
*HMCM - Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-9)

hips named in honor of a Hospital Corpsman

Reference: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

*USS "Caron" (DD-970)
*USS "David R. Ray" (DD-971)
*USS "Valdez" (FF-1096)
*USS "Benfold" (DDG-65)
*USS "De Wert" (FFG-45)
*USS "Francis Hammond" (FF-1067)
*USS "Daniel A. Joy" (DE-585)
*USS "Don O. Woods" (APD-118)
*USS "Durant" (DER-389) *Also sailed as USCGC "Durant"
*USS "Frament" (APD-77)
*USS "Jobb" (DE-707)
*USS "Liddle" (DE-206)
*USS "Thaddeus Parker" (DE-369)
*USS "Walter C. Wann" (DE-412)
*USS "Henry W. Tucker" (DD-875)
*USS "Jack Williams" (FFG-24)
*USS "John Willis" (DE-1027)
*USS "Lester" (DE-1022)
*USS "Halyburton" (FFG-40)
*USS "Litchfield" (AG-95)

U.S. Navy Enlisted Medical Personnel Killed in Action

*American Civil War (1861-1865), 6
*Spanish-American War (1898), 3
*World War I (1917-1918), 20
*Nicaragua (1932), 1
*World War II (1941-1945), 1,170
*Korean War (1950-1954), 108
*Dominican Republic (1965), 1
*Vietnam War (1962-1975), 638
*Beirut, (1983), 15
*First Gulf War (1990-1991), 0
*Afghanistan (2001–present), 4
*Iraq War (2003-present), 30
**Total, 1,990

Decorations of Valor Awarded to Hospital Corpsmen

*Medal of Honor, 28
*Navy Cross, 174
*Distinguished Service Cross (United States Army), 31
*Silver Star, 946
*Bronze Star, 1,582

Hospital Corpsmen who received the Medal of Honor

Before World War One

*Hospital Apprentice Robert H. Stanley, USN (Boxer Rebellion)
*Hospital Apprentice First Class William Zuiderveld, USN (Veracruz Incursion)
*Hospital Apprentice Fred H. McGuire, USN (Philippine Insurrection)
*Hospital Steward William S. Shacklette, USN (Boiler Explosion in San Diego)

World War One

*Pharmacist's Mate First Class John H. Balch, USN
*Hospital Apprentice First Class David E. Hayden, USN

World War Two

*Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Eugene Bush, USN
*Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class William D. Halyburton, Jr., USNR
*Hospital Apprentice First Class Fred F. Lester, USN
*Pharmacist's Mate First Class Francis J. Pierce, USN
*Pharmacist's Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen, USN
*Pharmacist's Mate Third Class Jack_Williams, USN
*Pharmacist's Mate First Class John H. Willis, USN

Korean Conflict

*Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward C. Benfold, USN
*Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette, USN
*Hospitalman Richard D. Dewert, USN
*Pharmacist's Mate Second Class William D. Halyburton, Jr., USN
*Hospitalman Francis C. Hammond, USN
*Hospitalman John E. Kilmer, USN

Vietnam War

*Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard, USN
*Hospital Corpsman Third Class Wayne M. Caron, USN
*Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert R. Ingram, USN
*Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray, USN

ee also

*Medical Assistant (Royal Navy)
*Medical assistant


External links

* [, A Site run by Corpsmen for Corpsmen]
* [, A site dedicated to the advancement endeavors of Hospital Corpsman]
* [, Website for the Navy Independent Duty Corpsman Association.]
* [ Hospital Corspman HM]
* [ HM-8404 Field Medical Service Technician]

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