Sunday, December 7, 2008

Navy 'Doc' Keeps Marine Platoon Combat Ready in Iraq

Seaman Nick Vasilliades (front), the hospital corpsman with Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, patrols a residential area north of the Euphrates River in Rawah, Iraq, Dec. 1. Vasilliades, known as "Doc" to the Marines in the platoon, has been on every mounted and dismounted patrol conducted by the Marines of PRP-3 at Traffic Control Point 3 in western al Anbar province, Iraq. (Photographer: Sgt. Trent Lowry, Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs.)

Patrolling near Traffic Control Point 3 in Rawah, Iraq, Marines from Provisional Rifle Platoon 3 provide security for the areas around the Rawah Bridge that crosses the Euphrates River Dec. 1. Seaman Nick Vassiliades, right, has the duty of ensuring immediate medical support is available to the Marines each time they are "outside the wire." (Photographer: Sgt. Trent Lowry, Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs.)

Dispatches from the Front:

RAWAH, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2008 -- The mission of Provincial Rifle Platoon 3, Regimental Combat Team 5, hasn’t required the Marines to be in hostile situations, but that’s no reason to discount the dedication of one service member dedicated to the health of the platoon members.

Seaman Nick Vassiliades, 21, hospital corpsman, PRP-3, from Cypress, Texas, has not had to treat Marines for combat trauma while assigned to the platoon, but he’s ready for anything, from nicks and bruises earned through the Marines’ hard work to broken bones.

“I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be,” said Vassiliades, meaning serving as a “green side” corpsman – that is, a medical expert with the Marines.

Relatively new to the service, Vassiliades is no less serious or dedicated to his duty as corpsman with Marines than a sailor with more time in service. Though there have been no combat related injuries, Vassiliades, known as “Doc” to the Marines of PRP-3, has had to provide his medical advice and care for a number of Marines.

“He’s been knowledgeable in diagnosing various problems Marines have had,” said Sgt. Dante Sevieri, 24, a squad leader with PRP-3 and a prior patient of Vassiliades from Castro Valley, Calif.

Marines have also had problems “Doc” has not been able to fix with his limited resources, including a broken hand and a pinched nerve, but Vassiliades diagnosed the problems and arranged for the Marines to be sent to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, for further treatment at the Regimental Aid Station.

“I’m confident in my ability to treat the Marines,” Vassiliades said. “I’ve been trained to treat everything from common colds to mass casualties.”

The “Doc” has been perhaps the busiest member of the platoon, participating in all of the more than 120 patrols that the PRP-3 Marines from Traffic Control Point 3 have undertaken.

“We’ve been patrolling a lot. But that’s good because I like going out on patrols,” said Vasilliades. “I welcome the chance to go outside the [camp], going where the Marines go, and I’m glad I was chosen to go with PRP-3.”

“He does well when we go on patrols,” Sevieri said. “He’s always alert and covers his sectors of fire; he takes every patrol seriously.”

Vasilliades said he wanted to be a Marine since he was a student in junior high school, but as his interests turned toward the medical field, he chose the Navy so he could still serve with Marines.

“If I could stay ‘green’ for the rest of my contract, I would do it,” Vasilliades said. “I figure if I can be taking care of Marines, it’s just as good as being a Marine.”

From the Field Medical Training Battalion schoolhouse at Camp Del Mar, Camp Pendleton, Calif., where Navy corpsmen are trained to become corpsmen with the Fleet Marine Force, Vasilliades was assigned to the Regimental Aid Station at 5th Marine Regiment.

When he deployed to Iraq with RCT-5, he was assigned to Grizzly Mobile, the regiment’s mobile assault platoon, and went out with quick reaction force teams. Vasilliades also spent time at Camp Korean Village with a Grizzly Mobile detachment. Now serving with PRP-3, he’s adapted with ease to each of the smaller units.

“I feel accepted by the Marines when I am assigned to a unit,” Vasilliades said. “I’m pretty close to everyone with PRP-3. Overall, the bond between corpsmen and Marines is strong.”

Though “Doc” is enjoying his time in the Navy, he plans to study medicine and become a doctor in the civilian sector after his commitment to the armed forces is over. Until then, he’ll continue getting the satisfaction out of serving with Marines and knowing his efforts are keeping the leathernecks combat effective.

“At the end of the day, when Marines say thank you, it’s a good feeling, knowing that I helped them,” Vasilliades said.

(Report by Sgt. M. Trent Lowry, Regimental Combat Team 5.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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