MIGHTY CULTURE

See how life-saving docs compete for "Best Medic"

Medics are the vital, front-line personnel who keep injured and sick service members safe until they can reach doctors and advanced medical care. When they want to compete for top bragging rights, they get together in competitions that test their skills as soldiers, medics, and warriors.

For combat medics, success is all about keeping up with formations and providing expert and timely medical care at the point of injury. So it makes sense that their competitions for top bragging rights include everything from administering medical aid and triage to land navigation and calling for fire.


In fact, an Army-wide Best Medic competition is held annually and has evolved out of the Best Ranger competition. This contest pits 34 two-person teams against one another in a 72-hour competition. During this three-day event, docs are challenged by events like rifle ranges, stress shoots, obstacle courses, a 12-mile ruck march, an urban assault lane, and combat medic lanes.

U.S. Army Spc. Charles Hines from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), fires an M4 during a stress shoot at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The medics in the competition are always tested on some sort of basic soldiering skills — rifle marksmanship usually makes the list. In this photo from a competition in Alaska, we get a look at medics competing in stress shoots.

U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), jumps up from pushups during a stress shoot July 25, 2018, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Stress shoots are events wherein a shooter's body is put under duress by physical exercise — in this case, push-ups — before having to fire their weapons as accurately as possible. The event tests a competitor's ability to perform as they would in combat where moving around in armor causes accuracy-reducing fatigue.

Spc. Aaron Tolson of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, administers an IV to a simulated casualty during a best medic competition in Fort Bragg, N.C., July 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Of course, Best Medic competitions still center around medical knowledge and the ability to assess, treat, and transport casualties.

Pvt. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), administers a nasopharyngeal airway intervention on a dummy patient July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The simulated patients are presented with injuries and illnesses common on battlefields as well as injuries that are challenging to diagnose and treat, pushing medics' skills to the limit.

Spc. Steven Gildersleeve from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), pulls the quick-release cord from body armor on a simulated casualty July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Casualties are often covered in protective gear as they would be in a real fight. This can include everything from MOPP gear, used in chemical, biological, and nuclear environments, to body armors and helmets used nearly everywhere, both in training and combat.

An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), decontaminates himself during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Of course, if you're testing medics on how to treat patients in a chemical environment, you also have to test their ability to operate in a chemical environment. This means medics must not just ensuring the medic takes the right steps to protect their patient, but they must also make sure to protect themselves properly.

An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), configures a radio during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Other tasks that medics are tested on include radio communications. After all, their patients can't make it off of the battlefield in a timely manner, let alone within the "Golden Hour" that's critical to saving lives in combat, if the medics and battlefield leaders can't get the radios up and call for medevac and fire support.

Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, completes the monkey bars during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Similarly, the medics have to prove that they can get to the fight and move around on the battlefield like the soldiers they support. To test this, medics are put through a number of obstacles.

Cpt. Brian Calandra, physical therapist with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, does the low crawl during the obstacle course portion of the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

These obstacle courses can include everything commonly tested during basic training, airborne, and air assault schools, as well hazards from other military competitions, like Best Ranger.

Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, climbs over an obstacle during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Even better, obstacle courses can be combined with medical training to create the medical equivalent of a stress shoot. Medics capable of serving patients while under fire on the battlefield should be able to treat patients immediately after completing obstacles.

Spc. Juan Villegas, a combat medic with 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, goes through the log jump portion of the obstacle course during the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

And, of course, the photos look cool. It's way easier to recruit prospective soldiers into the medical fields when they think they'll look like a computer wallpaper every once in a while as they do their jobs.