By Mass Communication
Specialist 2nd Class Robyn Gerstenslager, Naval Special
Warfare Group 4 Public Affairs
TAMPA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Special Operations
Medical Association named Special Warfare Boat Operator 2nd
Class John Cowgar of Naval Special Warfare Group 4 as the
Naval Special Warfare Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM)
of the year Dec. 17, 2008, at a ceremony in Tampa, Fla.
Cowgar was up against more than 100 other SEAL and Special Warfare
Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) SOCMs within Naval Special
"He's an excellent example of a SOCM in Naval Special Warfare," said
Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Rickie Fry, NSWG-4's medical
department leading chief petty officer. "He has excellent
medical and leadership skills that he has proved in combat."
To become a SOCM within the SWCC community a special boat operator must
stand out during SWCC school and be recommended for the
program by an instructor.
Upon graduation he will transfer to the medical department at Special Boat
Team 12 in Coronado, Calif., to complete mandatory online
The final, and most challenging, step to becoming a SOCM is six months of
intensive training at the Joint Special Operations Medical
Training Center in Fort Bragg, N.C.
The training will teach him to perform a variety of life-saving skills in
an austere environment, with a focus on trauma skills. A
SOCM may be called upon to administer Advanced Cardiac Life
Support (ACLS), intubation, chest tube thoracostomy or
venous cut downs.
Cowgar said that he has always been interested in the medical field, and
that becoming a SOCM gave him an opportunity to explore
those interests as well as gain the skills to save his
fellow teammates' lives if called upon.
He put those skills to the test in 2006 while deployed to Iraq with a
Riverine Troop (RT) from Special Boat Team 22; during a
mission the RT was ambushed by an Improvised Explosive
Device (IED) and small arms fire.
Cowgar was injured during the attack, but aggressively engaged the enemy
until the troop was out of the contact area. He ignored his
own injuries and tended to a teammate with severe shrapnel
His selfless efforts earned him the Bronze Star with a V for Valor March
"My training has benefitted me every day," said Cowgar. "Since becoming a
SOCM I have been given the chance to help others on a
Since reporting to the NSWG-4 medical department in April 2008 Cowgar has
taken the SOCM program within the special boat team
community under his wing. He created a tracking program to
stay current on the number of SOCMs at each team and at the
After a SWCC receives his SOCM certification, Cowgar ensures that each one
maintains his credentials by tracking individual
re-certification dates. Cowgar also developed a sustainment
program for all SWCC medics.
"I created the sustainment program to further enhance and sharpen the
skills of a SOCM, enabling them to better treat their
teammates," said Cowgar. "So far it's working very well. It
has provided an avenue for learning which has increased our
medical readiness across the board."
The sustainment program contains individual training modules that are
taught at each boat team. The modules are made up of
Tactical Medical Emergency Protocols (TMEP) that every SOCM
is required to know, said Cowgar.
"My number one goal is to increase the number of qualified SOCMs
throughout the boat teams, and to further build camaraderie
through the SOCM community by introducing a SOCM challenge,"
The SOCM challenge is still in the works, but he plans to create a
competition that will test the skills of the SOCMs.
Already Cowgar's efforts have lead to an increase in SWCC SOCM manpower.
Since the implementation of his sustainment program SOCM
numbers within the special boat team community have
As the assistant command fitness leader, Cowgar leads numerous and
individual physical fitness (PT) sessions. He also
implemented the remedial PT program to prepare NSWG-4
Sailors for the semi-annual physical fitness assessment.
"He just does the job without me even asking," said Fry. "I can just give
him tasks and know that it's done."
Cowgar is very humbled by his selection as SOCM of the year.
"Representing WARCOM as SOCM of the year is a great honor, it's an honor
that not only comes with great recognition but also great
responsibility," said Cowgar. "But I did not earn it on my
own; superb leadership, support from my commands and
outstanding teammates were key contributions to my
For more news from Naval Special Warfare Group 4, visit www.navy.mil/local/nswg4/.