Face of Defense: Wounded Warrior Leads Medical Battalion
By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, May 23, 2008 When Army Cmmand Sgt. Maj. Mark Cornejo was wounded in Iraq, he had to return stateside for medical treatment, reluctantly leaving his comrades and mission behind.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Cornejo, who was injured in Iraq in 2007, speaks at his change of responsibility ceremony May 13, 2008, at the 187th Medical Battalion headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo by Elaine Wilson, Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But one thing that never left him was his desire to serve.
After three months of in-patient treatment and more than five months in rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center here, Cornejo assumed responsibility for 187th Medical Battalion from Army Master Sgt. Dwight Wafford during a May 13 ceremony at the battalion headquarters here.
“Giving up never entered my thought process,” Cornejo said, speaking of his recovery. “It wasn’t ‘if,’ it was ‘when’ I was going to get back. I just wanted to know how fast I could get fixed so I could get back.”
Cornejo deployed with 3rd Corps out of Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2006 as the chief medical noncommissioned officer for the corps staff. He was wounded Sept. 11, 2007, in a mortar attack on his forward operating base. He and 10 other soldiers were wounded.
“I suffered shrapnel wounds on the left side of my body and left shoulder,” he said.
He underwent extensive physical rehabilitation at BAMC and now is working on building strength in his shoulder.
Cornejo found out he was selected for command sergeant major while deployed, and during his recovery at BAMC, was pleased to learn his assignment would keep him here.
“I was very happy. Since I’m a medic, I’ve come full circle. I’m back where I was trained 20 years ago,” he said.
As the battalion command sergeant major, Cornejo has command responsibility for more than 450 instructors and nearly 6,000 soldiers being trained throughout the year. The battalion is responsible for the logistics and training of eight military occupational specialties, eight officer courses and nine additional skill identifiers.
Cornejo said he would like to bring lessons learned while deployed to his soldiers.
“My hope is to shed some light on past experiences to magnify the importance of basic warrior tasks each soldier needs to know,” he said. “My goal is to provide realistic, but safe, training for our soldiers.”
During the ceremony, Army Lt. Col. Michael Hershman, 187th Medical Battalion commander, thanked Wafford and his family and welcomed Cornejo and his two daughters, Kayla and Jenna.
“He knows what is at stake for our young Americans that we train each day,” Hershman said. “We look forward to him applying the lessons he learned in combat to take our field training and ‘soldierization’ to new levels.”
(Elaine Wilson works in the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)