Stan Gerding

Dear Grandson: Hospital Corps School

In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding has finished with boot camp and shares his experience at Hospital Corps School. 


Dear Grandson,

Well, boot camp is over.

They sent us home for a few days and then back to Great Lakes for Hospital Corps School. I spent those few days at home just relaxing and then I was off again for my next venture in the U.S. Navy.

I flew into Chicago’s O’Hare airport and took the bus to Great Lakes and, wow, what a difference, nobody there to holler at me and tell me where to go. The bus dropped me off at the gate on the hospital side of the base and when I got off and went to the gate, the guards looked at my orders and pointed to a building about two hundred feet away and told me that is where I check in for Corps School. I picked up my sea bag and headed for that building.

Now, keep in mind, I still do not know much about what a hospital corpsman does for the Navy. I started walking down this long hallway, noticing all these pictures hanging on the walls of Hospital Corpsmen dressed in Marine Corps utilities and right below the picture was their name, rank, and what medals they were awarded, and the word “posthumously” jumped right out.

I stopped for a moment and tried to figure out what that word meant. Then it dawned on me that these guys were killed in battle. Of course, I just happened to notice they were dressed in marine green. Oh my god, hospital corpsmen go with the marines, and as I was thinking it, a fella came out from a door down the hall and said, “That’s right, we go with the Marine Corps.”

He told me to come to the office and check in with my orders. He looked them over and said, “I think your class is slated to go to FMSS training after graduation.” FMSS, Field Medical Service School, which was Marine Corps training.

My thoughts were running wild now, Not only, no ship duty, but now I might be going to Vietnam.


My thoughts were running wild now, Not only, no ship duty, but now I might be going to Vietnam.


I checked in and was sent to my barracks to be assigned a bunk. When I got there, there were quite a few of my classmates already there and checked in. After completing all the introductions, the guys invited me to go to the chow hall for dinner. The chow hall was in the hospital and was pretty darn good.

The next few days were spent on various duties around the compound and then we went for indoctrination and met our company Chief and the company nurse. The Chief’s name was Chief Mundt and the nurse was LCdr Swanson, a Lieutenant Commander. They told us the program was sixteen weeks long, and listed all the courses we would be taking, and then they handed out books for us to use in the classroom. Lots of nursing care, emergency first aid, pharmacy, and various other courses to make us Hospital Corpsmen.

I really enjoyed the course of study, and the more we learned from the Chief about what an HM (Navy classification for Hospital Corpsman) was, the more I began to feel proud to be associated with the medical field.

Every day was very similar: we would get up in the morning, make our beds, clean the barracks, and fall out to be marched to the chow hall; then we went to the classroom where we learned all about being medical caregivers. It was here that I got my nickname “Granny.” Of course, I am going to tell you how that came about.



There was this comedian named Jonathan Winters, whom I really enjoyed watching, and he would have these characters that he would act like, they called it improvisational comedy. One of his characters was an old lady named “Maude Frickert” and he would wear a gray wig and a long granny dress to do the part. I got pretty good at doing this part, so I started calling myself “Granny.” Everybody loved it when I would perform Granny in the barracks. I didn’t realize until later how valuable this would be for me.

Part of this course of instruction was that, during our 7th and 14th weeks, we had actual hands-on experience with real patients on various hospital floors, doing mostly nursing care. Both weeks, I was on the same floor working the Neurosurgical Unit. These units were called Wards.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with real patients and putting together what we were learning in the classroom and using these skills on live patients, who were mostly casualties from Vietnam. It was a touching experience to not only administer nursing care to these fine warriors but also to learn about the combat situation they had been through. I was starting to imagine serving in a combat unit and it was scary. I got through this, though, and just thought about becoming the best hospital corpsman I could be.

In our 15th week, our orders came in and we were sent to the classroom where the Chief was holding a lot of paperwork. The first thing the Chief said was that our whole class was going to FMSS, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for seven weeks of USMC field medical training. Then, we would be sent to a Naval Hospital for our permanent duty station.

The Chief started reading off all our duty stations and when he came to my name he said, “Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland,” and I was happy with that because it was close to Washington D.C. I remember when I was a little kid going there for a vacation and I really liked it.

We finished up all our classwork and prepared for graduation. We had a party the night before and a few of my buddies went out and bought a gray wig and an old dress for me to dress up like “Granny” for the party. It was a great time.



Graduation came and before you knew it we were on the bus, sea bag and orders in hand, headed for the airport. We were sent home for a few days of rest and relaxation (R&R) and then off to Camp Lejeune for FMSS training.

More on that later, Grandson.




Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.


Stan Gerding

Stan Gerding is a retired veteran after 23 years in the Navy that included a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Corpsman, 1968-1969. He has since been the administrator of various healthcare organizations, a high school science teacher, an author, a singer, and is the father of Greg Gerding and grandfather to Jack.

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