SINGAPORE - Sailors from the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) participated in an Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) June 16 with their Singaporean counterparts.
The training was part of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Eric Casasflores, assigned to Freedom said the SMEE, which involved presentations by Singaporean and U.S. corpsmen, and tours of both countries' shipboard medical bays, was a huge success.
"It was a very productive exchange of information," said Casasflores. "It was a joint effort coordinated by U.S. and Singaporean IDCs. We planned this event with our fellow Singaporean medical professionals because we felt it was important that medical procedures and training take the forefront during CARAT Singapore."
Chief Hospital Corpsman Edmond Reyes, assigned to Fitzgerald, explained the history of the U.S. Navy corpsman rating to the 10-man bilateral group. "We used to be called loblolly boys," Reyes said. "An ordinary enlisted Sailor would be assigned to assist the surgeon with amputations, cleaning up after the surgery, and providing meals for the sick and injured during the Revolutionary War. The gruel served to medical patients was called 'loblolly,' hence the name."
By World War I, Reyes said, "Corpsman was one of the oldest, most decorated ratings in the Navy," with several hundred corpsman being awarded Medals of Honor, Navy Crosses, Distinguished Service Medals and other prestigious awards for their valor. He also explained to the group that the Navy places high importance on the medical training of every member of a ship's crew, and that Navy Sailors train constantly on basic first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, and how to deal with the challenges of caring for a patient under less than ideal conditions.
"We have independent inspectors, Afloat Training Groups, that put our crew through rigorous medical drills and mass casualty situations, watch our stretcher bearers, and quiz them on how they would react to certain scenarios, or get a casualty out of an engineering space or vertical space. It's a pass or fail inspection, with serious consequences. If a ship doesn't pass ATG, they won't be certified as being ready to deploy."
The flexibility and dedication of the Sailors is tantamount in medical scenarios, said Reyes. "In the U.S. Navy, we don't call it a challenge," said Reyes. "We call it the way it is, and we make it work, no matter what the situation."
During the tours of Freedom, Fitzgerald and the Singaporean ship RSS Formidable, medical professionals from both navies were able to interact with Sailors on the ships and ask questions about their background and operations.
"This was a very productive interchange," said Military Medical Expert 3 See Toh Poh Daniel. "It gave us a lot of insight into the way the U.S. Navy approaches tactical casualty care and training of their shipboard members. I think we all benefited from this experience."
"I was very impressed with their use of space in their mass casualty station," said Casasflores. "There was a lot of experience and knowledge in the room. I think the U.S. Navy could learn a lot from our Singaporean partners, and they can learn a lot from us."