“When the time comes and you’re down range and a Marine yells ‘corpsman up,’ I know you won’t hesitate, because that’s not what we do.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Lance Wyatt’s words are something he knows firsthand. Wyatt, a corpsman, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for valor for his actions during deployment to Afghanistan where he cared for more than 30 wounded coalition troops.
Wyatt, in the Navy for 11 years, was deployed to the Sangin District of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2013 and worked as part of a small team of Marines, sailors and soldiers who advised the Afghan National Army on combat tactics and life-saving medical procedures.
On his first day in Afghanistan, he treated a triple amputee. During another operation, Wyatt treated six critical patients. It tested his training, he said, and he worried about having enough medical supplies.
During the course of Wyatt’s deployment, according to the citation, he was credited with treating 32 wounded Afghans, both military and civilian, many of whom suffered amputations, gunshot or shrapnel wounds and traumatic brain injuries. Within the citation, Wyatt is said to have performed lifesaving measures under enemy fire, many times, returning fire himself to protect his patients from additional wounds and repel the ongoing enemy attacks.
“Being a corpsman means the world to me ... and being called ‘doc’ means a great deal to me,” he said. “You earned the name ‘doc’ — it wasn’t just given. ”
Petty Officer Second Class Justin Willis, 27, of Camp Lejeune, listened to the award citation and said Wyatt represents what a corpsman is supposed to do under fire.
“Being a corpsman, we want to be that person who takes care of that person who can’t take care of themselves,” Willis said. “To put your safety aside and do what needs to be done is definitely what inspired me. To sacrifice his well-being for others, and doing so without hesitation, is what makes this so impressive.”
As the senior enlisted adviser to 2nd Dental Battalion, the unit to which Wyatt now belongs, Master Chief Petty Officer Christopher Dingler, 45, of Holly Ridge said that embodying the core values of honor, courage and commitment is exactly what Wyatt has demonstrated through his tenacity and dedication under fire.
“Corpsmen are generally selfless individuals ...who sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice trying to save the wounded,” Dingler said. “He represents everything that corpsmen have gone out and done before him; and for that reason, he should be looked up to.”
Wyatt, who accepted his award with his wife and children present, credits the training he received for his ability to make quick decisions.
“Everything goes back to training while you’re under fire,” he said. “I’m thinking before I get (to the casualty) and basing (decisions) off of what I see. There’s not too much running through your head.
“The training had become muscle memory, so it was acting, not thinking.”