The Hospital Corps is the backbone of Navy Medicine. Established June 17, 1898, it is the only enlisted corps within the Medical Department. Although its 24,000 Sailors serve in some 35 technical specialties, all hospital corpsmen are trained in a base of medical knowledge that allows them a greater flexibility in supporting the healthcare mission.
Hospital corpsmen serve around the globe in naval hospitals and clinics. They provide healthcare aboard ships and submarines, the smaller of which have no doctor and rely on a highly-trained Independent Duty Hospital Corpsman. In the role that has earned them perhaps the most fame, hospital corpsmen serve with the operational forces of the U.S. Marine Corps, providing battlefield aid for those wounded in combat. Known to their Marines as “Doc,” their bravery in risking their lives to aid the fallen is legendary.
Of the 22 Medals of Honor awarded to hospital corpsmen—more than any other enlisted group—most were for service with the Fleet Marine Force. Hospital corpsmen have earned other decorations for valor in great numbers as well. Since the establishment of the corps, some 2,000 have been killed in action.