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How to Become an Army Combat Medic: Criteria & Training

Updated on March 1, 2017
Learning in Life profile image

I am an Emergency Medical Technician in my normal life and a Medic in the Army Reserve when the need arises.

Camp Bullis training in AIT, on top of a tank.
Camp Bullis training in AIT, on top of a tank.

What's in a Name

You first need to know that combat medics are called a lot of different things, some of which are:

  • Doc (Slang: this term is an honor to be called. Not everyone achieves this.)
  • Health Care Specialist (The professional title the Army gives you.)
  • Medic (Short version most people use. Informal.)
  • Combat medic (People use this when they want to sound cool.)
  • 68W (Military Occupational Specialty or MOS)
  • Soldier medic (This is usually only used during AIT.)

In the driver's seat of my medical vehicle.
In the driver's seat of my medical vehicle.

What Does a Combat Medic Do?

According to goarmy.com, the Health Care Specialist job duties are as follows:

  • Administer emergency medical treatment to battlefield casualties.
  • Assist with outpatient and inpatient care and treatment.
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory analysis.
  • Prepare patients, operating rooms, equipment, and supplies for surgery.

According to a soldier, the Health Care Specialist job duties are as follows:

  • Maintain medical vehicles.
  • Give immunizations to large groups of people.
  • Provide medical assistant at the range and during runs, competitions, and marches.
  • Screen patients for the doctor, checking for vital signs.
  • Provide medical coverage on convoys.
  • Run a combat or field hospital.

Qualifications

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you posess the minimum criteria for enlistment.

  • Have a high school diploma or its equivalent
  • No criminal record of a felony.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien.
  • Be 17-35 years old.
  • Be healthy and in good physical condition.

There are also certain criteria to become a Health Care Specialist:

  • Skilled Technician (ST) line score of 101 or higher
  • General Technician (GT) line score of 107 or higher

For the last two criteria, you will need to have already taken the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery).

Steps to Joining the Army

1. Meet with your local Army recruiter. They will pre-screen you for the ASVAB, medical, and basic qualifications.

2. Decide what MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) you want. If you're reading this, you would most likely be choosing 68W: Health Care Specialist. Your recruiter will then make a job reservation for you. If you pass all of the qualifiers for that MOS, you will have it put in your contract.

3. Go to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). This is where you will jump through all kinds of hoops and get poked and prodded.

What to Expect at MEPS

 
 
urinalysis (drug test)
hearing test
eye test
medical exam
security clearance interview
weight check or body fat measurement
meeting with a job counselor
review of enlistment options and possible enlistment incentives
take the enlistment oath
sign the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) contract

4. Take the ASVAB. This determines if you have the basic knowledge to enlist. Also, there are subcategories that determine which jobs you are suited for. Two of those subcategories are the GT line score and the ST line score that determine if you are qualified to become a medic.

5. Once you have qualified, chosen your job, and spent an entire day waiting around, you will sign your DEP contract and swear in. Until your ship-off date, you will spend time with your recruiters learning about basic army stuff and getting into shape.

6. Finally, when the ship date arrives, you will go back to MEPS, officially swear in, sign your official contract, and leave for basic training.

After a day of obstacle courses in Basic Training
After a day of obstacle courses in Basic Training

Army Basic Combat Training (BCT)

Health Care Specialists go through the same basic training as every other soldier who enlists in the Army. This training last around 10 weeks. The Balance provides a great explanation and guide to surviving basic training.

Combat Medic Training Phases

Phase
Length
EMT
6 weeks
Whiskey (W)
8 weeks
Camp Bullis
2 weeks

Advanced Individual Training (AIT) / Army Combat Medic Training

Health Care Specialists spend 16 weeks in AIT learning their individual job. These 16 weeks are spent in three different phases. These phases are commonly called EMT, Whiskey, and Camp Bullis/Field Training. During all phases you will wake up early, do physical training, and then attend professional training for about 8 hours a day. The exception to this is the occasional 24-hour shifts for fireguard or during field training exercises.

1. EMT-B

This phase of training prepares you to take the civilian NREMT-B (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians-Basic). You will spend all day in a classroom either listening to lectures on PowerPoints or practicing hands-on skills with other soldiers or on mannequins. This is the most stressful phase for most soldiers because everything depends on them passing the NREMT. But in my opinion, the actual training is more relaxed than everything else you're expected to do.

You are given three chances at the test. If you fail all three attempts, you are no longer eligible to become an Army medic, and you will be sent to a new AIT for a new MOS.

An EMT Basic is the minimum certification you need to practice emergency medicine. Below is a list of things you will learn in training to help you pass the exam.

What You Need to Know on the EMT Basic Exam

 
 
CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
EMS OPS (Emergency Medical Service Operations)
SAMPLE medical history
Emergency situations
Lifting and carrying patients
Airway
Pharmacology
Exam procedures
Assesments
Trauma
Documentation
Infants and children

2. Whiskey

The second phase is usually called Whiskey, as in 68W. Whiskey is the Army phonetic for the letter W. This is where your focus is more on military medicine. You will practice performing IVs, carrying each other, dressing wounds under fire, and transporting casualties. This is the more physically demanding part of training. You will be carrying a lot of gear and heavy people. If you are a 120-pound female, you still need to be able to drag a 200-pound man across a field with your aid bag on your back and gear on.

In this phase will learn techniques such as:

  • Nasopharyngeal airway (NPA): A tube like apparatus, lubed up, and inserted into your nose to create an airway. You will do this to your fellow soldiers and they will do it to you.
  • Shots and intravenous injections (IV): You will spend a lot of time with needles. If you have a fear of needles, it will be rough, but you can get through it. In the beginning, I was shaking and almost crying during this phase of training. But by the end of training, it was the easiest thing to do. I even gave myself an IV.
  • Needle chest decompression: Inserting a needle into a mannequin's chest to relieve pressure in the lungs.

3. Camp Bullis/Field Training

This phase is by far the most fun, but is still just as physically demanding as the Whiskey phase, if not more.

  • You will be living in old-fashioned style tent barracks.
  • You will likely be up and in formation earlier than you're used to.
  • You will complete many exercises that are combat scenarios.
  • You will attack buildings, surge up hills, go on patrols, and experience mass casualties.

This training is very intense and pulls everything you have learned about soldiering and being a medic into 2 weeks. Luckily, it is designed in a crawl, walk, and run progression. You will start out going through every step with your instructor at a slow pace to make sure you understand each step. You will then go through everything at regular speed with your instructor's help. The run phase is the last few days of field training and is done at full speed with no input from your instructors. This is the ultimate culmination of everything you have learned and this is where you prove you are a capable medic.

The major events that you will cover in the last days of your field training are:

  • Patrols: mounted and dismounted
  • Mass casualties
  • Transportation
  • Decontamination
  • Attack and clear buildings
  • Field hospital

Training exercise at Dona Ana, NM. Practicing loading a patient.
Training exercise at Dona Ana, NM. Practicing loading a patient.

Graduation

By this stage, you will have completed all of your training, turned in your gear, and graduated. You will then be shipped off to your first duty station as a combat medic! You will most likely receive your orders telling you where you are headed just before you leave for field training.

Now is the best time to start working on getting promoted.

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    • profile image

      Yoselin A 7 weeks ago

      Hello I am working on a career project and one of my questions was what are some of draw backs to being a combat medic and what is your weekly, monthly, and yearly, salary. Does it grow

    • profile image

      Talia 23 months ago

      This is a very informative article but do you have to take the whole course and national if you're already a civilian EMT?

    • profile image

      BobInFla 3 years ago

      I served as a medic from 1972 - 1978.

      My medical training was in early 1972 and the above description pretty accurately describes the training I received with a few differences. In those days, before the MOS numbers were reassigned we graduated from Ft. Sam as 91B's, not 68W.

      The length of our training was 10 weeks, not 16, but we did OJT. Mine lasted about 4 months which was typical in those days.

      I fondly remember Ft Sam and San Antonio, Camp Bullis and my OJT at Ft. Devens in Mass. My BASIC was at Ft. Polk near Shreveport, La.

      Thank you for the short trip down memory lane.

    • karinhistory profile image

      Karin 3 years ago

      This was a good read. Interesting. I don't think i would be suitable for a job like that. Voted up.

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

      A great hub! I found it interesting with the mix of video clip, pictures, and information shared.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Thank you. That picture was awesome to take too. I was on the top of the tank!

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 4 years ago from Illinois

      This is great information for anyone wanting to become an army medic and just inserting besides. I like all your personal photos from your company and training, especially everyone all over the tank that you cannot even see.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      You are very welcome.

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia

      Congratulation on your nomination, well deserved and thank you for opening the door for me to the world I don't know too much about:)

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      I understand about not joining as a single mother. The only reason I got out of the Army is because my husband is a soldier too. It would have been just as hard if not harder for us both to be in the Army with a child.

    • renegadetory profile image

      Carolyn Dahl 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

      Up here in Canada my brother in law is in the Forces and two of his friends went into the Forces, one of them to be a medic. The great part is your training/education is all paid for and he really liked it.

      I applaud you and others who decide to become Medics either in the Army or the Canadian Forces because it's not easy (not that anything is easy) and you provide such a valuable and important service to your fellow troops.

      I came very close to joining the Forces, but decided against it as a single mother at the time. I know that I wouldn't have the stomach for being a medic! So I really appreciate others who can do it. Your Hub has been voted up for sure!

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      You don't have to be a male. I am a female.

    • greenpharmacy profile image

      Anandita 4 years ago from Korea

      If I am a male, I will go for joining Health Care Specialist! Thanks for sharing hub of the day.

    • mikewills profile image

      Michael Williams 4 years ago from Illinois, USA

      Congratulations on Hub of the Day! This article is very well done, and while I am not considering the military myself, this serves as a fascinating and informative insight into being a combat medic, which anyone who has an interest in the field can find value in. A great read!

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Well, I truly loved being a medic and believe there are others who would too.

    • profile image

      gautams1 4 years ago

      Thank you for providing this information on HubPages. There are so many people that are looking for careers and are looking for good information on noble career paths to dedicate their lives towards. You have provided a great deal of information that will help people. Thank you.

    • Learning in Life profile image
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      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Thank you so much. I was very surprised when I found out it was hub of the day. It was my first attempt at a stellar hub.

    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

      Learning in Life, Congratulations on Hub of the Day! Your Army Combat Medic page is rich in detail, I'm sure it will be helpful to anyone looking for a military career choice. Regards, snakeslane

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Thank you very much.

    • Learning in Life profile image
      Author

      Megan Harvison 4 years ago from SW Florida

      Thank you very much.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

      This is a very nice outlined guide that I'm sure many thinking about pursuing this will find helpful! And congratulations on this hub being "Hub of the Day"!

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