Mission MCLB: Independent Navy Corpsman

Photo Credit: Romney Smith

Ryan Sanford knew he was destined to work in military medicine from a young age. "I was a Navy brat growing up. My mom was actually a Navy Corpsman during the Vietnam era so I grew up around navy medicine - it's always been in my blood" says Sanford.

He now works as an independent duty corpsman in the United States and abroad. He's essentially the military equivalent of a physician's assistant. His primary job is taking care of the active duty population's medical needs and when he's deployed he acts as a primary physician.

Sanford recently returned from Afghanistan where he was working in a mobile emergency room called a "Shock Trauma Platoon". While deployed Sanford takes care of injured active duty military men and women as well as local nationals who have been injured for various reasons.

While working all staff are armed in case a patient is armed and dangerous. Yet another added danger while practicing military medicine abroad. "When someone enters the medical facility at first it's a little bit of apprehension, a little bit of an adrenaline rush, but once the patient is there and in front of you and your hands on - training sets in and takes over" says Sanford.

The balance between the military and medical can be challenging at times, however Sanford says he takes each situation on a case by case basis to make sure he performs his main job â" which is to heal the nation's hero's.