My father was a Pharmacist’s Mate (today referred to as Corpsman) and plank owner (original crew member) on the Battleship New Jersey during WWII, so every year I write about one of the Naval vessels visiting New York City for Fleet Week.
This year I requested to meet with my one of my father’s counterparts, and I was granted an interview with Hospital Corpsman Chief Robert Flores to learn about how he serves today on the USS Arlington, an LPD (Landing Platform Dock) that transfers troops to a war zone using landing craft and helicopters. The Arlington crew is comprised of 427 sailors and 600-800 marines.
“I always knew I was going to join the Navy,” said Chief Flores, who has served for 18 years and described his job very simply by saying, “I keep us healthy and make sure everybody is ready to fight.”
Chief Flores has 17 Corpsmen working under him and they include a surgical tech, x-ray tech and a pharmacy tech, whose nickname the “Drug Queen,” is emblazoned on a plaque above her office. When I visited the USS Bataan two years ago, one of the engine room crew was nicknamed, the “Oil King,” so the Navy is not short on a sense of humor. Chief Flores and his crew were all quick with a joke, but they also radiated extreme self-confidence while making me feel completely welcome and at home on the Arlington.
The administrative offices and examination rooms were all impeccably clean, giving new meaning to the expression “ship-shape.” Chief Flores gave me a detailed tour of the facilities, which include:
- Decontamination Station (for chemical/bi attacks)
- Battle Dressing Station (Emergency room)
- Operating Rooms
- Portable X Ray Machine
- Dental Office
“We give physical examinations, we can do blood work and we always have a dentist on board,” said Chief Flores. “We maintain health records for all of our crew members and I also act as a health inspector.” The ship converts thousands of gallons of seawater into potable drinking water every day, and Chief Flores makes sure it’s always safe to drink.
I mentioned how much I enjoy military acronyms and expressions, and Chief Flores immediately grabbed a “Float Coat,” which is a fancy word for a multi-faceted life preserver.
“We have a ship’s doctor and dentist, but when deployed we bring an additional surgical team of 8-15 along,” said Chief Flores. “We all enjoy our jobs and we pride ourselves on being in a state of readiness.”
Chief Flores walked me around the Arlington and I got to meet sailors, marines and officers who were all preparing to greet civilians for tours over the Memorial Weekend.
Spending my Saturday morning with the men and women of the USS Arlington was a true privilege, and the respect and admiration I have for them is enormous. When I was young, I really didn’t understand the sacrifices my father and his fellow sailors and soldiers made for our country, but I do now.
Rob Taub has enjoyed an eclectic career in film, television, radio, and journalism. He has interviewed everyone from pop stars to presidents and he has written more than 250 articles for People Magazine, FoxNews.com, SI/Cauldron, The Huffington Post, and Thrive Global. Rob’s work in television has encompassed everything from scripted comedies to producing World Wrestling Entertainment, and his distinctive voice can be heard in commercials and movies, including the Coen Brothers Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink. He is known for playing the role of weatherman Russell Carlton on The Onion News Network and has made more than 200 appearances as a political and sports pundit/humorist on television. Rob is a respected Diabetes Advocate and Obesity Ambassador, writing and speaking regularly about Type 2 diabetes and health. Follow him on Twitter @robmtaub or at www.RobTaub.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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