USS RUSHMORE – Sailing across the high seas, a team of 21 corpsmen, one ER physician, an ER nurse and a dentist keep the Marines and sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group healthy as they continue their Western Pacific deployment.
Although it’s much smaller than the PELARG’s flag ship, the USS Peleliu, medical and dental departments aboard the Rushmore are capable of preventing and treating illnesses and minor injuries, cleaning teeth and removing cavities, training and educating Marines and sailors in combat life saving courses and preparing for the rapid treatment of combat casualties.
“We’re supplying manpower to care for immunizations, preventing illness and injury, physical exams, training and education,” said Lt. j.g. Francesca Harris, physician assistant, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU. “We’re capable of doing anything below level two surgery, including sutures of minor lacerations and the immediate care of life-threatening trauma.”
The corpsmen from the MEU share working spaces with the ship’s corpsmen, and it’s imperative they work hand in hand to take care of the crew.
“It’s crucial we work together and help each other out,” added Harris, a 37-year-old native of Washington D.C. “We utilize the ship’s company spaces, and they provide us with the supplies we need day-to-day. In return, we provide extra hands and care for both Marines and sailors.”
Apart from treating injuries and illnesses, the team takes time to teach the crew skills that can save lives. Four of the corpsmen aboard the USS Rushmore are qualified Combat Life-Saving course instructors who have already given five classes, qualifying 28 Marines aboard the USS Rushmore.
“We offer the CLS course to teach Marines to treat fellow Marines in combat without the aid of a corpsman, in case one is not able to assist,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class William B. Imperial, corpsman, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “It’s important for Marines to know these skills because they could potentially save another Marine’s life,” added the 25-year-old Manila, Philippines, native.
Among the medical team is a Shock Trauma Platoon. The group of eight corpsmen, one emergency nurse and one emergency physician is a rapid response team that focuses on the initial treatment of trauma in the event of combat related casualties.
“We have the capability to carry out temporizing life-saving procedures and treatments that will stabilize a patient until he can get to a higher level of care on the [USS Peleliu],” said Lt. Cmdr. David Clark, officer-in-charge, Shock Trauma Platoon, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “The temporary treatment of casualties is aimed to extend their ‘golden hour’ in order for the casualty to make it to level two or higher treatment,” added Clark, a 36-year-old native of San Diego.
The golden hour is the immediate time soon after an injury where the most effective treatment can be applied in order to transport a casualty to higher medical care. The STP bridges the gap between the basic trauma care the corpsmen aboard the Rushmore can give and the high-level surgery the Peleliu is capable of providing.
Together, the teams keep Marines and sailors safe and prepared for the future. Their preparation is for a planned humanitarian mission in the Western Pacific, where they will administer medical and dental care to the local community.
The 15th MEU is currently embarked as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, while they serve as the nation's rapid-response sea-based Marine Air Ground Task Force for Western Pacific Deployment 12-02.