Military Medical, Army Medical, Military Medics, Army Medic, Army Medical Services

US Navy Hospital Corpsman providing treatment to a wounded Iraqi soldier, 2003

Combat Medic Training Evolves to Save Lives / US Department of Defense

We’ve all seen the distraught soldier frantically clutching his wounded buddy as the battle rages on in our favorite war movies. Shouts of “Medic! Medic!” get quick attention and the audience utters a collective sigh of relief as combat medics whisk away the wounded soldier to safer ground while his buddy wins the war. Is that the way it happens in real life? What is a combat medic, anyway?

In real life, a military (combat) medic is part of a team of highly trained medical specialists who have the fearsome mission of keeping the soldiers alive and healthy both on and off the battlefield. The typical day may look like that of most other doctors and surgeons: making rounds to update the prognoses of current patients, dictate medical reports, work through endless piles of paperwork, review and evaluate medical tests, and maintain communications with the rest of the medical staff while keeping concerned family, friends, and employers updated and comforted, too.

The patients under the military medic’s care suffer from every ailment people suffer during times of peace and they suffer the traumas of war, too. A leg broken during a game of touch football, a kitchen cut that needs stitches, an outbreak of the flu or food poisoning keep the military medic busy with medical conditions that are somewhat predictable. Even so, when life in the military infirmary seems routine, the reality of war is never far from mind.

The military medic must also treat soldiers returning from battle who suffer wounds that have never been seen before. No textbook contains treatment options; nothing is predictable here. Not only are the wounds horrific, everyone in this combat-zone emergency room is trained to kill. The stress of warfare, the unimaginable shock and pain from battle wounds, the very real human realities of war create volatile moments that leave no doubt that routine does not exist in this environment.

Even more unpredictable is the environment a military medic faces when deployed to the front line as part of a combat troop. Armed with both medical supplies and a personal weapon, the medic facing combat is in as much danger from enemy fire as anyone else and his mission is to make gut-wrenching decisions on behalf of others, even while under fire himself. Where is he hurt is of little concern. The big question is will this one survive the rescue and repairs or should we move on to someone more likely to survive. There are no easy answers for the combat medic.

The military medic may not fire the victory shot but, to every wounded warrior who’s come into his care, his name is likely to rank very high on the list of the wounded veteran’s personal wartime heroes.

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