CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan (June 7, 2019) Hospital Corpsmen respond to a simulated patient casualty during a tactical combat casualty care exercise as part of a rigorous Jungle Medicine Course at Jungle Warfare Training Center, Okinawa, Japan. The 10-day medical course trains Navy medical personnel assigned to Marine forces on jungle survival skills, patient tracking, field medical care, and casualty evacuation techniques. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan (June 7, 2019) Hospital Corpsmen respond to a simulated patient casualty during a tactical combat casualty care exercise as part of a rigorous Jungle Medicine Course at Jungle Warfare Training Center, Okinawa, Japan. The 10-day medical course trains Navy medical personnel assigned to Marine forces on jungle survival skills, patient tracking, field medical care, and casualty evacuation techniques. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

Into the Jungle: Medical Course Challenges Corpsmen

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax
U.S. Marine Corps

“Corpsman!” 
“Corpsman!”

Adrenaline boils, fueling first-responder instincts as 10 hospital corpsmen respond to an ambush in the dead of the night. There is little to no visibility in the crude field hospital, armed with only their M16s and jungle medical packs. 

This is the Jungle Medicine Course.

Two days into the course, Hospitalman Mitchell Bromley, 3d Medical Battalion, described the nature of the living conditions.

“Our uniforms are getting pretty smelly and really muddy at this point.”

“It’s rainy, humid, and the temperature can change really, really fast,” Bromley said. “There are some really dangerous points where you can get hurt, but at the same time it’s honestly worth it because it puts everything into perspective.” 

The Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, hosts a rigorous 10-day Jungle Medicine Course, designed to train medical personnel to operate and treat patients in a tropical combat environment. 

Located in northern Okinawa, the only Department of Defense jungle training facility for Marines and joint forces welcomes students on day one into the jungle with course conditions that include Meal, Ready-to-Eat rations, two-person tents and luxurious field showers.

While the course continues to focus on jungle survival and unit leadership skills, the latest revisions reflect a shift to more hands-on jungle medicine practice.
The Jungle Warfare Training Center’s medical staff, led by the command’s independent duty corpsman, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Phillip Morris, implemented the revisions. As instructors and role players, the staff was able to recognize areas for improvement and took the time to redesign the curriculum. 

“We wanted to focus more on the jungle medicine portion,” Morris said. “The course still has the physical aspect of it, but in the form of having patients in the jungle, retrieving and tracking those patients, treating them in the jungle and then medevac-ing them by air or vehicles.”

As a lead course instructor, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Kevin Gizara spent time each day with the students through training evolutions that included tracking patients, land navigation, rope systems, rappelling techniques, tactical combat casualty care and casualty evacuation.

“It really is go-go-go,” Gizara said. “The training is definitely hard, and all of the JWTC medical staff have done it. However, we’re not just breaking people off. There are reasons why we train the way we do, and there are definitely reasons why we give the students rest days.”

The course schedule outlines the objectives for each day, allotting time for classroom training, followed by practical application of each skill. This allowed the corpsmen to hone hands-on skills outside of the medical field. 

“As corpsmen, we are going to go where the Marines go, whether that’s the jungle or the desert,” Morris said. “Just because we are not in the infantry or the Marines, we still need to learn how to land navigate, we still need to learn how to track, because we might be that person that needs to do it.”

During the latest class, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Windell Kellogg, returned to the training center to instruct a portion of the course, which he originally began developing in 2011. 

“Upon coming here, I noticed that there was a need for this training,” Kellogg said. “For the last twenty years, our focus has been primarily on desert warfare. Now is a great time to start building up our foundation for that new set of knowledge to take everything in that history and incorporate that into our modern medicine, techniques and equipment.”

The Jungle Warfare Training Center occupies 17,500 acres of forest and is home to 24 endangered species, as well as a variety of poisonous insects, spiders and the infamous Habu snake species.

A Jungle Medicine Course student, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Alfredo Gregorio, 3d Medical Battalion, said that he recommends every field corpsman to take advantage of the hands-on training.

“This experience is like nothing else,” Gregorio said. “A blue-side or hospital corpsman wouldn’t get this field experience. Out here, your mission is still the patient, but you’re learning other techniques like patient tracking, movements, evacuation, and how to sustain yourself and the patient as you battle the jungle.”

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