One Hospital Corpsman's Path to Navy Medicine and Serving During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Riley

Growing up off a nameless dirt road, 30 minutes away from the nearest town Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Taylor Williams never anticipated a career in Navy Medicine.

“Honestly, I was completely directionless,” Williams said.

After attaining her general education diploma (GED), Williams went to New Mexico State University and then transferred to Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, before making the jump to the U.S. Navy.

“I talked to a recruiter [as I was] desperate for purpose and stability,” Williams said. “Nine months later I left for boot camp. I joined when I was 21 after failing to find funds to continue to pay for college. I needed means to better myself.”

Although the Navy wasn’t always in her life plan, it had always been a part of her family history.

“I have a distant uncle who served in the Navy,” she said. “And my grandma was a WAVE.”

WAVES is an acronym for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services and was the women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II. It was established on July 21, 1942 by Congress and was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 30 of the same year.

Photo credit Defense.gov/Donna M Cipolloni

An undated photo from the personal collection of Alice Virginia Benzie, a Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – WAVES – sailor stationed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., in the 1940s, shows WAVES standing in formation outside the hangars. By the time recruiting ended in 1945, the WAVES boasted a force of 86,000 enlisted and more than 8,000 female officers – around 2.5 percent of the Navy’s total strength at the time.

Although Williams had taken the first step in deciding to follow her family’s history and serve in the Navy on her own, when deciding what job to take in the Navy, she turned to someone special for help.

“My current fiancé was a Marine friend at the time and when it was time for me to select a rate, he told me corpsman was the best,” Williams said. “So out of blind love I chose corpsman. It will forever be the greatest decision I have ever made for myself.”

Williams said serving in the Navy and at her duty station at the Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) has been both a tough and rewarding adventure.

“My experience in the Navy has been unforgiving; constantly demanding the hardest decisions from me, and coincidentally it’s been an unrivaled teacher,” she said.

“I joined at such an emotionally unstable part of my life. I was able to utilize military resources early on and will continue to be better for it. I ended up proving to myself that I am much more capable than I had ever previously imagined.”

Now serving in the Navy Medicine community during a unique time with an entirely new norm throughout the country, as well as the world, Williams explains what her and her team does to help combat COVID-19.

“Our mission hasn’t changed, but the precautions and strategies in keeping the shipyard safe have been amplified,” she said.

“Corpsmen at the branch clinic are now on high alert, with intensive patient screening, excessive disinfecting, new watch-posts and the moral upkeep involved in not only continuing to serve, but also worry for our loved ones.”

Williams said she is grateful for everything the Navy has provided her but has decided to separate once her enlistment commitment is complete and shift her focus on family and a new career.

“This is my first, and last duty station,” said Williams.

“I had hoped for bigger adventures when I joined, but I had my daughter and my priorities have drastically shifted to her and only her. I see myself using the tools I’ve acquired to help others as I transition into the social worker field that my time in the Navy has inspired me to be.”

-This story originally appeared on dvidshub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.

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As the COVID-19 outbreak is quickly evolving, the USO has pivoted resources across the entire global enterprise in an approach that helps care for military members and their families.

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