By Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Courtez Brown, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Fredelyne Dolores, and Command Senior Chief Dedrick Walker
Two Hospital Corpsman
HM1 Courtez Brown: I am a respiratory therapist aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). Serving on Mercy has been such a humbling yet inspiring experience.
My day begins with CPO 365 physical training (PT). Through the guidance of the Mercy Chief Petty Officer’s Mess, my fellow first class petty officers and I are taught the fine details of leadership and how to lead with motivation and confidence. After PT each morning, I meet with my department head, division officer and chief to discuss the day’s mission and objectives. Meetings roll into muster with all the staff, where we relay the plan of the day to our division face-to-face.
During Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), we are training our surgical and medical staff to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response. We are also holding subject-matter expert knowledge exchanges with partner nations. We do all of this while maintaining a fully functional surgical platform for all the service members afloat. Every morning, the operating rooms are prepped for possible cases. All equipment and consumables are verified and sterilizers are calibrated. During this exercise, I have had the opportunity to assist patients flown in from U.S. and partner nation vessels needing surgical aid from Mercy. When I am not scrubbed into a case, I teach classes to help cross-train the nursing and hospital corpsman staff in mechanical ventilation, emergency airway management and oxygen therapy.
Mercy has massive capabilities and it takes endless cross-training to ensure we are ready to take advantage of those capabilities – that means drilling and training on a daily basis. Once we train, we test our knowledge through mass casualty drills, which are followed by more in-depth training in specific medical or technical fields. Nearly every day, I have the opportunity to exchange knowledge in my field, respiratory therapy, with experts from nations like Australia, the People’s Republic of China, Canada, The Netherlands and others. We are all learning new ways to approach our mission more effectively.
My days typically end with me passing on my knowledge to junior Sailors so that they can succeed in their careers. I teach advancement topics and leadership courses and promote fitness and nutrition throughout the ship. It’s great to be able to help train my prospective replacements. Seeing them grow every day makes me comfortable in knowing that the hospital corpsman rate is in good hands for many years to come.
One of the most important tasks I have in the Navy is standing watch as the Officer of the Day. Assuming the duties and responsibilities of the watch means taking care of the whole ship, its crew and any visitors we have aboard. It’s when I stand my watch that I think of all the Sailors that came before me and the Navy’s deep history, heritage and tradition. I stand the same watch as those who came before me and gave their lives for this country. This watch in particular brings out my pride in being a United States Sailor.
Pulling into Pearl Harbor recently and rendering honors to the USS Arizona from a ship built to care for wartime casualties as well provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response to the entire world is an experience I’ll never forget.
RIMPAC 2014 has given me the opportunity to put all the skills I’ve learned in the Navy to work. RIMPAC is about team building, and creating partnerships by working with people from other countries to train and educate each other and then testing our mutual capabilities.
Service on MERCY during RIMPAC puts me in the center of it all.
HM2 (SW/AW) Fredelyne Dolores: I am a General Duty Corpsman serving aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). My ship pulled out of Pearl Harbor this morning. I was manning the rails as the ship rendered honors to the USS Arizona memorial. It gives me a great sense of pride knowing that the Sailors aboard that ship gave the ultimate sacrifice in protecting our freedom and preserving our future. Standing in front of the memorial while Mercy was sailing past and paying my respect is such an honor. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and respect to all who have served and are still currently serving. I know it is not an easy task to do. It doesn’t make it any easier, especially when you have lost someone that you love, whether it be a friend or a loved one.
Being in my uniform and standing there at attention and paying my respect is an honor and privilege. I feel very privileged to be able to serve my country and my fellow citizens. My day starts at 0545 when I wake up and get prepared for the day. I’m usually dressed and at breakfast around 0630. Afterward, I attend our directorate meeting and muster at 0730 – that is where everyone who works in Sick Call discusses the plan of the day and reviews what we did the day before.
At 0800, we open the doors for sick call, where we tend to patients who have acute ailments and illnesses. Running sick call is fun, but it can also become stressful at times. Every day is different from the last. Some days we are flooded with a steady flow of patients, ranging from colds or coughs to cuts and infections, while other days we only get a handful of patients. I assist with triaging patients, sending daily reports up the chain of command to the commanding officer and ensuring the daily census is accurate for administrative purposes.
If I am not seeing patients, I am usually seated at the front desk, where I answer phone calls and direct people with questions to someone who can help them. As a corpsman, I am given the privilege of serving other Sailors and ensuring they are healthy and capable of performing their mission. This is truly an honor. Healing, listening and training my fellow Sailors gives me overwhelming satisfaction, gratification and happiness. Knowing that I was able to help and share my knowledge and experience with people is the best part of my job. Seeing the grateful faces of the people I have helped makes me feel great about what I do; especially when it’s a colleague or friend that I’m able to help.
Life on the Mercy is very different from almost any other ship in the Navy. Mercy is specifically built to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response in a variety of situations around the world, so as a crew we constantly train to meet those situations.
RIMPAC tests our readiness to serve through various training, medical evacuation, mass casualty drills and specialized, in-depth training in specific medical and technical fields. I stand the Medical Emergency Response Team watch, which means I could be called away to respond to any casualty that may occur either underway or in port. For me, RIMPAC has offered the opportunity to share my knowledge, training and experience with my junior hospital corpsman, civilians in Hawaii and medical personnel from other countries. From providing basic first aid classes to Girl Scouts to teaching basic splinting, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to exchange information I’ve learned over the years. I firmly believe in the concept that how you train is how you fight, so during all of our drills and exchanges I’ve taken every opportunity to not only teach, but learn from those with more experience than me. My knowledge is only going to grow the more I practice and apply it.
My days end by preparing junior Sailors for success by teaching an Enlisted Advancement Review Course. This helps people prepare for advancement exams and ensure they’ll be ready to take on their responsibilities when they are promoted to the next rank. Afterward, I take time for myself for exercise. At the end of almost every day, I can lay in my rack and relax knowing that I have helped someone, and that if something in the world occurs that requires Mercy’s assistance — the crew will be ready. That is why I love being a Hospital Corpsman, and that is why I love serving aboard Mercy.
The Command Senior Chief
CMDCS Dedrick Walker: Greetings! My name is Dedrick Walker. I am the Command Senior Chief on board Medical Treatment Facility, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19). I reported aboard approximately three weeks ago while in port Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A typical day at sea for me begins with a brief meeting with the commanding officer and the executive officer where we discuss our mission, vision and upcoming events.
Shortly after, Mercy’s directors join us for our daily “Directorates Call” where the day’s agenda is synchronized with any last minute additions or changes. Since reporting aboard, I have spent most of my mornings meeting and engaging with each and every crewmember.
My leadership philosophy is what I like to call my “Three P’s: People, Passion and Purpose.” That means I view each Sailor aboard Mercy as someone who I work for and assist in their professional and personal growth. My goal is for all of my Sailors to have passion, motivation and energy while we are completing Mercy’s mission.
Mercy is a unique command. Most of the year we operate in a reduced operating status (ROS), meaning while the ship is in homeport our of San Diego, our crew is comprised of approximately eight officers, four senior chiefs, eight chiefs, and 42 junior personnel. When the ship prepares for a mission or exercise, the crew transitions to full operating status (FOS), embarking more than 800 personnel. From a leadership perspective, this presents an interesting dynamic requiring supreme coordination and communication to succeed.
The most rewarding part of being Mercy’s Command Senior Chief is the role that I play in the personal and professional growth of the Sailors with whom I have the honor of serving. Additionally, I find great joy in the development of our future chief petty officers through CPO 365. It is a rare opportunity to harness the collective experience and wisdom of the Chief Petty Officer’s Mess with the aspirations and enthusiasm of the first class petty officers. Emphasis is placed on everyone working together towards a common goal, while understanding we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Training and influencing the chief petty officers of tomorrow’s Navy is critical to developing leaders and significantly contributes to a legacy that will last for generations to come.
RIMPAC 2014 has been an extremely gratifying experience. The opportunity to lead a crew as talented as Mercy’s, combined with the esprit de corps of 22 partner nations working together in the world’s largest maritime exercise is something that I will never forget. I am excited about the direction we are headed in and I anticipate the opportunities that lie around the corner.
I hope to see you on the deckplates – keep charging!