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SURFOR Staff and Guests Celebrate Hospital Corps 111th Birthday

By MC1 (SW) Katherine Sanchez, SURFOR Public Affairs

Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) staff and guests gathered at SURFOR headquarters June 12 to celebrate the Navy Hospital Corps’ birthday. The event commemorated 111 years of service since the corps establishment in 1898.

Command Master Chief, 1st Medical Battalion, Master Chief Hospital Corpsman E. D. Faulkner, guest of honor and speaker, commented on the bravery and sacrifice made by hospital corpsmen over the years and today.

“When we talk about honor, honesty, integrity and truthfulness, we are talking about the pledge of the hospital corpsmen that they will allow no harm to come to any Sailor, Airman or Marine trusted to their care. And if that means sacrificing and putting their lives on the line to do that, they are willing to do it,” he said. “There’s nothing more brave or valorous than a corpsman on the battlefield, in the surface fleet, with subs or with the Marines—we’re everywhere,” added Faulkner.

The event, which was coordinated by SURFOR’s Force Medical Team, also featured a display that included photos of 10 of the 20 ships named after heroic corpsmen, the names of 1,999 corpsmen killed in action and a letter dated 1868, written by a Sailor requesting acceptance into the hospital corps. The display was provided by Cmdr. Steven McGivern of the Force Medical Team.

“It was an honor to be part of a ceremony where the achievements and commitment of our hospital corps was the focal point,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st class Austin Ivy, event head coordinator and master of ceremony. “Today is a very special day, not just for hospital corpsmen, but for every Sailor to pause for a moment and commemorate those great Sailors who have gone before us and given the ultimate measure of sacrifice for their country,” he added.

The celebration concluded with the time-honored naval custom of presenting pieces of birthday cake to the guest of honor and to the oldest and the youngest corpsman present, symbolizing the celebration of experience and youth. Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW) Stephen Richardson, Force Medical Team represented the oldest corpsman and Hospital Corpsman 3rd class Amanda Vasquez, USS Higgins DDG 76, the youngest.

In his closing remarks, Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, Commander, Naval Surface Forces/Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet said, “All of us can look back on our pasts, and think about being out on that ship, and the injuries we’ve had or the medical issues we had and have confidence in knowing that a corpsman, who might have been a third class or a chief, was there to help us out, along the way.”

The Hospital Corps celebrates a long, rich history, which can be traced back to the Continental Navy and early U.S. Navy. The first medical assistants assigned to Navy ships were 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. Later, the title of the enlisted medical assistant changed from “Loblolly Boy,” to “Nurse” and finally to “Bayman.” In 1841 a senior enlisted medical rate called “Surgeon's Steward” was introduced and remained through the Civil War. Following the war, “Surgeon's Steward” became “Apothecary,” a position requiring completion of a course in pharmacology.

Just prior to the Spanish-American War, Congress passed a bill that authorized establishment of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps. The bill was signed into law by President William McKinley on June 17, 1898.

During World War I, corpsmen earned 684 personal awards, including 22 Medals of Honor, 55 Navy Crosses and 237 Silver Stars.

In World War II, hospital corpsman worked side-by-side with their Marine brothers, hitting the beach with them in every battle in the Pacific. They also served on thousands of ships and submarines.

Hospital corpsman continued to serve at sea and ashore during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, corpsmen have been on the front lines in the Global War on Terrorism. Today, they make up the largest rating in the Navy, with approximately 24,000 corpsmen serving around the globe, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, they have responded to natural disasters and other emergencies during peacetime.

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