How to Become an Army Combat Medic: Criteria & Training
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.)
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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
Lifting and carrying patients
Infants and children
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
- Attack and clear buildings
- Field hospital
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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- Health Care Specialist (68W) | GoArmy.com
A Health Care Specialist assists with patient care, administers emergency medical treatment to battlefield injuries and prepares patients for surgery.