SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Sailors from across Marine Forces Reserve and the U.S. Navy Reserve participated in a Fleet Marine Force reconnaissance corpsman screening hosted by 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve in San Antonio, April 19-22, 2016.
The screening identified potential reserve corpsmen for selection in the FMF reconnaissance corpsman training pipeline through a series of challenges designed to replicate the stress of reconnaissance training.
“The purpose of the training is to challenge the Sailors both physically and mentally,” said Chief Petty Officer Eric S. Gilmet, the chief instructor for the screening and a FMF reconnaissance corpsman with Inspector-Instructor medical staff, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve. “They are exposed to a little bit of what the pipeline has to offer, to determine if this is really something they want to do.”
To complete the screening, the Sailors spent multiple days in the training, which included a physical screening test, a physical fitness test, water confidence training, an open-water fin swim, land navigation, patrolling, and a tactical combat casualty care practical application at various training sites in the San Antonio area. However, the four-day training only scratched the surface of what the actual pipeline consists of.
“For corpsmen who have already been through the field medical training battalion, the pipeline can take up to two years,” said Gilmet.
To complete the pipeline, corpsmen must attend the Marine Corps basic reconnaissance primer course, the basic reconnaissance course, Marine combatant dive school, the amphibious reconnaissance corpsman course, U.S Army airborne school and special operations combat medic course.
With the pipeline as grueling as it is, there is a shortage of qualified corpsmen, especially on the Reserve side.
“The reconnaissance corpsman Navy enlisted classification is critically undermanned right now.” said Gilmet. “In order for a reconnaissance battalion to even leave the wire and conduct missions, they need a reconnaissance corpsman with them or someone who has been through the special operations combat medic course.”
To remedy this shortage, Gilmet created this screening to help identify reserve candidates for the pipeline.
“I started this in April 2015, but it only consisted of the physical screening test, some classroom work, and a final training exercise,” said Gilmet.
After receiving more funding for this program, the screening has evolved into the four-day training it is today.
“This screening is unique because a lot of these guys are being exposed to training they have never experienced,” said Gilmet. “They are being pushed harder than they have been pushed in their naval careers. The reason why we push them is because if they attend the basic reconnaissance primer course, the instructors look at everyone the same as active duty. We need to make sure that the Reserve sailors who attend this understand the expectation and are prepared to meet it.”
To expand the course, Gilmet recruited other active duty and Reserve FMF reconnaissance corpsmen to serve as instructors and help assess the Sailors attending the screening.
“We are trying to select individuals we believe have the drive to make it through the pipeline,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Austen C. Hubbard, a FMF reconnaissance corpsman with 4th Reconnaissance Battalion and the lead instructor for the screening. “For a lot of people who don’t finish the pipeline, it’s because of a lack of preparation or because they didn’t have it in their heart to do it in the first place.”
Among the ranks of students, there are several individuals determined to make the most out of this training.
“Coming here, I really wanted to see what the basic reconnaissance course was going to be like, so I could better prepare myself and see what I need to work on,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Bruce C. Stephen, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.
With the intensity of this screening, the students receive valuable insight into the FMF reconnaissance corpsman pipeline.
“Everything here has been hard,” Stephen said. “You are constantly getting your body thrashed to the max, then being told to push even further. You’d be surprised how much you can push if you really put your mind to it.”
For those few Sailors who are able to push themselves past the pain and hardship of this training, a coveted endorsement to the pipeline awaits them. For the even fewer Sailors who eventually make it through the pipeline and receive the title of FMF reconnaissance corpsman, an elusive membership into an elite brotherhood awaits them.
“This is a brotherhood that I am fortunate enough to be a part of for the rest of my life,” said Hubbard. “When you leave this community, the only thing you take with you is a lifetime membership to this brotherhood, and a paddle that your fellow Marines and corpsmen make for you.”