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5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

Walk into any military hospital, and you can usually get away with calling any of the medical personnel "Doc" if you're unfamiliar with the individual military branches' rank structure.


It happens all the time.

But bump into any Navy hospital corpsman and refer to him as a "medic," and you're going to get the stink-eye followed by a short and stern correction like, "I'm not a medic, I'm a corpsman."

The fact is, both Army medics and Navy corpsmen provide the same service and deliver the best patient care they can muster. To the untrained civilian eye — and even to some in the military — there's no difference between two jobs. But there is.

Related: This corpsman has 10 useful tips to assist a gunshot victim

We're here to set the record straight. So check out these five things that separate Army medics and Navy corpsmen.

1. They're from different branches

The biggest difference is the history and pride the individual branch has. Let's be clear, it's a significant and ongoing rivalry — but in the end, we all know they're on the same team.

2. M.O.S. / Rate

Combat Medic Specialists hold the MOS (military occupational specialty) of 68 Whiskey — these guys and gals are well trained. They also have 18 Delta — designated for the special forces community.

Combat Medics and Balad Airmen Deliver Medical Aid to Balad Iraqis

A Hospital Corpsman holds a rate of "0000" or "quad zero" after graduating "A" school. They then can go on to a "C" school to receive more specialized training like "8404" Field Medical Service Technician, where the sailor will usually find him or herself stationed with the Marines.

HM3 Bradley Erickson cleans facial wounds for Lance Cpl. Timothy Mixon after an IED attack (Wiki Commons)

Both jobs are crucial on the battlefield.

3. Symbols

The Combat Medic Badge is awarded to any member of the Army Medical Department at the rank of Colonel or below who provided medical care to troops under fire.

The "Caduceus" is the Navy Corpsman rating insignia.

Both symbols feature two snakes winding around a winged staff.

Also Read: This is why Navy medics get combat first aid training in US cities

 4. Deployments

Everyone's going to deploy at on time or another — it's a fundamental part of military life. But deployment tempo varies from branch to branch, so medics and corpsman have different experiences.

Now, combat medics typically deploy all over the world with their infantry units and assist with humanitarian efforts. 

Hospital corpsmen deploy on ships, as individual augmentees, and as support for Marines on combat operations.

Navy HM2 Gilbert Velez, assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment takes a knee on patrol. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris)

5. Advance Training

Although both jobs take some serious training to earn their respected titles, the Navy takes double duty as many enlisted corpsmen become IDCs, or Independent Duty Corpsmen.

Considered the equal of a Physician's Assistant in the civilian world (but their military credentials don't carry over), IDCs in most cases are the primary caregiver while a ship is underway, or a unit is deployed. After becoming an IDC, the sailor is qualified to write prescriptions, conduct specific medical procedures, and treat many ailments during sick call.

HM1 Class Shawn A. Fisher, right, independent duty corpsman assigned to the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) shares information regarding nicotine gum with Petty Officer 3rd Class William Leach at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Medical Clinic. (Photo by MC1 Erica R. Gardner)

If you're interested in learning more about becoming an Army medic or Navy Corpsman — contact a local recruiter today.

Can you think of any other differences between Corpsmen and Medics? Comment below.