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By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Hospitalman Matthew O’Dell, a native of Leonardtown, Maryland, is playing a critical role in the U.S. Navy’s efforts to maintain a healthy and ready fighting force in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As a hospital corpsman working at Navy Medical Readiness Training Command Patuxent River in Patuxent River, Maryland, O’Dell’s skills are vital to maintaining the health of the sailors in the Patuxent River area, and by extension, the readiness of the Navy’s operational ships and submarines on which they serve.
“The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic brought an invisible enemy to our shores and changed the way we operate as a Navy,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “The fight against this virus is a tough one, but our sailors are tougher. We must harden our Navy by continuing to focus on the health and safety of our forces and our families. The health and safety of our sailors and their families is, and must continue to be, our number one priority.”
O’Dell is a 2011 Desert Christian High School graduate and 2015 Azusa Pacific University graduate. According to O’Dell, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Tucson.
“I learned to make the best out of a situation, work with cards you’ve been dealt,” O’Dell said.
The U.S. Navy Hospital Corps is the most decorated career field in the Navy. Corpsmen have earned 22 Medals of Honor, 179 Navy Crosses, 959 Silver Stars and more than 1,600 Bronze Stars. 20 ships have been named in honor of corpsmen.
In its century of service, the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps has supported millions of sailors and Marines in wartime and peace around the world. As the years have progressed, technological innovations are transforming medical training for the next generation of hospital corpsmen, according to Navy officials.
“Many great women and men came before me,” O’Dell said. “I try to carry a bit of a chip on my shoulder, to always meet a certain level of preciseness, efficiency and care at any level or any job within the field.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy, O’Dell as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition that dates back centuries. Their efforts, especially during this time of challenge brought on by the Coronavirus, will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who provide the Navy the nation needs.
“Personally, I think it’s an interesting time in my five years of being in the Navy,” O’Dell added. “I get to look back on this situation one day as someone who was either one or two things, someone who stayed at the comfort of their home or someone who got up every morning and went to work and tried to make a small difference, even if it was at a low level.”