68W / US Army Healthcare Specialist

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Health Care Specialist (68W)

As with all things military, the combat medic is recognized by a military occupation speciality (MOS) code that identifies certain skill sets. Often pronounced Sixty-Eight-Whiskey, in keeping with the phonetic alphabet sanctioned by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the position is open to men and women alike. People with color vision deficiencies are welcome in the Army’s healthcare services, too, although not allowed with many other Army assignments.

The 68W combat medic, or, more officially, the Army health care specialist, must complete basic combat training before assignment to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) courses at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas. There, training lasts from 16 weeks to 68, depending upon chosen career paths.

During AIT, emergency medical courses emphasize cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) skills. Once certified in these two disciplines, advanced training in healthcare tasks specific to the Army are mastered.

The military medic’s 68W designation is often classified further with skill identifiers that designate certain specialties in military medicine. For example, a combat medic holding the classification of 68WF6 represents an Army flight medic; the 68WP2 is an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist; the 68WM6 designates an Army Licensed Practical Nurse; and the 68WW1 is a special operations combat medic (SOCM).

Although the descriptive names of the Army’s medical specialties resemble those used in the civilian medical community, the details of the descriptions vary. For example, in the case of an ENT healthcare provider, the civilian ENT is an expert on all things involving the ear, nose, and throat; the military medic knows this stuff, too, but he or she is also trained in combat, rescue, and other maneuvers unique to the Army.

Specialized Army training courses are required of the SOCM designation.These include:

  • Basics of EMT
  • EMT Paramedic Training
  • Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Advanced Tactical Practitioner (ATP)

Army field hospitals don’t usually staff as many Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) as the typical civilian hospital does but the work is done by combat medics at various stages of study and certification.