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Branch clinics have big day of summer in-processing

By Mike DiCicco | | May 29, 2013

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More than 650 officer candidates and officers were processed into the clinics at the Officer Candidates School and The Basic School on May 29, in one of the busiest days of the year for Naval Health Clinic Quantico’s satellite branches.

The staff at OCS’s John H. Bradley Branch Clinic refers to its summertime support of the school’s candidates — which swell in numbers from a few hundred during the rest of the year to as many as 1,500 between late May and mid-August — as Operation Bulldog.

Enlisted corpsmen came from as far as North Carolina and Connecticut, and providers from the officer ranks came from all over the country, totaling 62 augments to the clinic’s usual staff of about 23, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Wayne Morstad, clinic lead petty officer. “Our numbers have to triple to be able to sustain the impact of the additional candidates coming through.”

The augments arrived earlier in the month for training, he said. In addition to training that’s specific to the school’s evolutions, the corpsmen must be well-versed in treating heat casualties, one of the most common summertime maladies at a school where candidates push themselves to the limit to secure their future in the Marine Corps, he said.

“Events around here are very physically demanding, and due to the very warm weather we have in Virginia, these candidates tend to go down, and when they go down, they go down hard,” Morstad said.

Clinic staff started processing the approximately 400 candidates of Echo and Golf companies at 6 a.m., May 29 and didn’t expect to finish until mid-afternoon. The day before, India Co. had been processed, and Charlie Co. was due to arrive this week.

The candidates were lined up and run through one station after another, having their records reviewed here, getting fitted for boot inserts there, then having a physical therapy evaluation, in a sort of assembly-line model. They received their immunizations, those who needed glasses were fitted with them, and then they all had their blood drawn for various tests. After three reviews of their records, their integration into the military health care system was complete.

Across Interstate 95, a line of more than 250 second lieutenants of The Basic School’s incoming Delta Co. snaked through similar stations at the David R. Ray Branch Clinic at Camp Barrett. This influx, however, was nothing unusual.

“We typically see seven companies throughout the year, and they’re evenly spaced for the most part,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Robertson, officer in charge of the TBS clinic. Four companies arrive between May and August, but with the course running for six months, he said, “we’re pretty much year-round.”

Much like at the OCS clinic, corpsmen checked the incoming students’ records, drew blood for testing and gave any outstanding vaccinations. Athletic trainers screened them for recent injuries, surgeries or illnesses that might interfere with training.

“That’s the main reason people get dropped, is if they’ve had recent injuries or lingering injuries,” Robertson said, noting that two or three people per company normally get sidelined to wait for a later iteration of the course.

The mainside clinic usually sends a few lab technicians and physical therapists to help with the in-processing, but Robertson said  those may have been sent to help at the OCS clinic that day. He said his corpsmen could handle the load regardless, and he expected the whole job to take about six hours.

“Most of these corpsmen have been here a while,” he said. “They’ve seen three or four of these and they’ve got it down pat.”

Since many of the incoming officers were fasting before blood tests, the last station on their route was an outdoor cookout with hamburgers and hotdogs.

“We do this roughly every other month,” Robertson said of the in-processing. “In between, we’re just another clinic.”

— Writer: mdicicco@quanticosentryonline.com


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