BREMERTON, Wash. – If there’s one thing most U.S. Navy hospital corpsman have in common, it’s passion for the job.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class William Wolff, a Wauconda native and 2013 graduate of Wauconda High School, recently was selected by his peers as Navy Medical Readiness Training Command Bremerton’s Junior Sailor of the Quarter.
Wolff said having a lasting impact on the command’s beneficiaries and sailors is what continues to motivate him.
“I’ve had several small victories throughout my career,” Wolff said. “Victories both with and for my fellow sailors, as well as patients. I think those victories can help shape lives.”
One example of a small victory involved helping one of his sailors leave the Navy and join the Air Force.
“He was a licensed vocational nurse through an Army course he had taken,” Wolff said. ”I helped him develop a plan to not only help him retain his license, but also worked with him to separate from the Navy to complete a nursing degree. He’s currently going through Air Force basic training and will ultimately be commissioned as a flight nurse. I’m incredibly proud of him.”
The JSOQ award is one of several quarterly categories used to recognize high-performing sailors who stand out from others in similar pay grades. Wolff was recognized as a prime example of the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment, along with the command’s standards of care, competence and compassion.
Impressively, Wolff has only been at the command since March. In just over six months, he’s proved himself to be a valuable member of the command.
“I have nothing but gratitude for my sailors for doing what they do and for my leadership for selecting me,” he said.
Wolff joined the Navy in 2013 after graduating high school. His decision to join as a hospital corpsman was influenced by a unique job he had before joining the Navy.
“I was a mortician’s apprentice in high school,” Wolff said. “As part of one of my school’s technical programs, I was accepted as an apprentice at the Lake County Coroner’s Office. I was the youngest apprentice they’d ever had and needed my parent’s permission to even start. I saw the end result of some of the lowest parts of humanity there, and in the process learned a lot about myself and what I wanted to do with my life.
“I decided I wanted to be better. I wanted to help people who are alive better themselves, which eventually led me to becoming a hospital corpsman in the Navy.”
Since 2013, Wolff’s naval service has taken him all over the world. By his count, he has been to three continents, 23 countries and 10 states in seven years.
Wolff said his most rewarding experience came on a mission in Nicaragua.
“I was working as part of a forward deployed medical surveillance site in a small town,” he said. “For nearly two weeks, we saw local residents and did whatever we could for them medically. On the second to last day there, a gentleman in an old wheelchair arrived. He had what looked like several birth defects. The best word I could use to describe him is shriveled. His condition made it so he was very hard to understand, but we eventually found out he lived more than 200 miles away and had been traveling for more than a week to get to us. For the first two days, he literally pushed himself the best he could and slept on the side of the road, but was eventually able to hitchhike the rest of the way.
“By the time he arrived, we’d given away all of our wheelchairs, so for four hours I tried my best to repair his. I felt completely helpless. I just wanted to do anything for this man. At the end of the day, just when I was about to tell him I couldn’t do any more for him, another local resident asked about him. Turns out, the newcomer’s wife had recently passed, but he still had all of her old medical equipment, including a motorized wheelchair. He not only gave this gentleman all of his late wife’s equipment, but also gave him a ride home in his handi-capable van. To this day, it was one of the more powerful things I’ve ever seen.”
Currently, Wolff works as the command’s Family Medicine leading petty officer and works on the administrative needs of the hospital’s beneficiaries.
“Administrative needs are constant,” Wolff said. “If they are not handled quickly and effectively, they can cause additional stress to both our patients and our staff. Having paperwork in order only helps service those patients that much better. Relieving that stress and educating our staff goes a long way.”
Wolff arrived at NMRTC Bremerton at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, he and the entire command have worked tirelessly to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’ve primarily been conducting daily screening for the Family Medicine staff,” he said. “I’ve also been doing everything I can to help support the additional watches the hospital has had, including the patient screening tent outside our main building.”