Defense Department News

Face of Defense: Navy Corpsman Steps Closer To Life’s Goal


The naval medical center here will soon be losing the leading petty officer of the ambulatory surgery center.

And, although it’s a loss to the center, it’s a gain for the U.S. Navy’s Nurse Corps.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sutarto Soeng, a hospital corpsman, poses for photo at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., Feb. 10, 2017. Soeng was told that his name was on the list for the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program, and he will receive the opportunity to achieve one of his lifelong dreams -- to become a Navy nurse. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Johnson
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sutarto Soeng, a hospital corpsman, poses for photo at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., Feb. 10, 2017. Soeng was told that his name was on the list for the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program, and he will receive the opportunity to achieve one of his lifelong dreams -- to become a Navy nurse. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Johnson
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sutarto Soeng, a hospital corpsman, poses for photo at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., Feb. 10, 2017. Soeng was told that his name was on the list for the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program, and he will receive the opportunity to achieve one of his lifelong dreams -- to become a Navy nurse. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Johnson
Dream Achiever
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sutarto Soeng, a hospital corpsman, poses for photo at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., Feb. 10, 2017. Soeng was told that his name was on the list for the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program, and he will receive the opportunity to achieve one of his lifelong dreams -- to become a Navy nurse. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Gary Johnson
Photo By: Gary Johnson
VIRIN: 170210-N-DJ347-002

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sutarto Soeng, a hospital corpsman, was informed Jan. 30 that his name was on the list for the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program, and he will receive the opportunity to achieve one of his lifelong dreams -- to become a Navy nurse.

“It was an incredible feeling to hear the news that I was selected this year,” Soeng said. “I have wanted to have the chance to help people since I was a boy.”

Fisherman’s Son

Soeng grew up as a fisherman’s son in the small village of Bangka, Sumatra in Indonesia. For his family and community, medical care was not readily available. Some of his own family members have been affected by or have passed away from ailments that could have been treated or managed if they were caught early enough by a health care provider.

“It is very tough to live in small developing countries and seeing people like my grandmother and grandfather pass away from diseases that could have easily been treated,” Soeng said. “We were lucky to have a missionary nurse come to town and help during the time my sister was stricken with malaria.”

Soeng credits seeing the impact that one nurse can have on a community with inspiring him to work towards a career in helping others.

“It was very amazing seeing that one person get out there, I mean really get out there and help others, and even save my sister,” Soeng said. “At that time, my mother told us that the nurse is someone we should want to be like when we get older.”

When he was old enough to attend college, Soeng’s family could not afford to send him to a medical school. He was instead offered a scholarship to earn a degree in computer programming.

In 2004, Soeng was able to see another example of people caring for others.

Tsunami Strikes

“I still remember the day after Christmas that year when a tsunami hit the islands and caused absolute chaos,” Soeng said. “We may not have been directly affected, but we definitely felt and saw the impact, and had many family members that were affected.”

The 2004 tsunami, the result of an Indian Ocean earthquake with a magnitude of nearly 9.3, had waves that were estimated to be more than 100 feet tall. The disaster caused the death of approximately 260,000 people in 14 countries.

“Unfortunately a lot of people died during this event, but a lot of people are living thanks to the efforts of all the people that came to help,” Soeng said. “It was especially amazing to see the response by the U.S. Navy and all the men and women that came to help.”

In response to the disaster, many nations provided humanitarian aid, and among the responders were the USNS Mercy and its crew.

“It was all over the news when the Navy showed up to help and everyone was so thankful,” Soeng said. “I even remember telling my mother that I wanted to be one of those medical people for the Navy and she kind of joked about not being able to, considering our social and economic situation.”

The first doorway to his goal opened in 2005 when his family joined his sister in America.

“It was great to be here, but my degree was from another country and my English was not so good so I really needed to start from the bottom again,” Soeng said.

When arriving in the United States, he started working as a cook and dishwasher.

“My goal was to save money and get better at speaking English,” Soeng said. “After a few years, my brother-in-law talked to me and encouraged me to look at joining the military.”

Joining the Navy

Soeng enlisted in the Navy in 2010 as a hospital corpsman with hopes of getting his citizenship and obtaining his goal of working in the medical field. He went to HM “A” School and then to “C” school to earn his surgical technician Navy Enlisted Classification. His first assignment was in Bremerton, Washington.

“My first command was great, and the leadership was very encouraging,” Soeng said. “It was there that I learned about MECP, but I was busy learning my job and expanding my family with a new child.”

After finishing a two-year assignment in Washington, he was transferred to NMCP where he was assigned to the main operating room. He spent the first two years at NMCP working the weekend shift while attending school at Tidewater Community College during the weekdays he had off.

This is the second time he submitted for the program, and he credits his wife and family as well as his leadership on both the officer and enlisted side for the encouragement to keep going and stay in the Navy pursuing his dream.

After receiving his official orders, Soeng will attend Old Dominion University to earn his nursing degree and will then be commissioned into the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps.

“I have had to start over a lot throughout my life and it has been very rough, but I never gave up,” Soeng said. “I received a lot of encouragement along the way and I would like to encourage anyone that has a dream, no matter what it may be, to be consistent and never give up.”