FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, April 17, 2007) - In a grueling competition April 13-16 at Camp Bullis and Fort Sam Houston, Texas, medics from throughout the Army met to see who is best.

Staff Sgt. Mario Medina, a wardmaster at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash., emerged with the title "Top Medic in the Army." Staff Sgt. Cesar Veliz of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga., finished second in the competition, and Sgt. 1st Class Gregorio Villanueva of the Army Medical Department Center and School here finished third.

Working with little sleep over 75 hours, the competitors completed a formidable gauntlet of tasks. Challenges included a physical fitness test; M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol marksmanship; a 100-question written test on medical subjects and Common Warrior Soldier Skills; navigation by map and compass to find 20 locations over 10 miles of hilly terrain, both in dark and daylight; a 12-mile foot march with rucksack, weapon, helmet and protective vest; and a 18-staion obstacle course.

During the "Top Medic Stakes" segment that also took place day and night, competitors performed hands-on demonstrations of military communication skills, assembled the M9 pistol, prepared to fire the M136 AT4 anti-tank weapon and responded to a cardiac arrest. Working in realistic scenarios, the medics were required to lead a squad through a mission, react to enemy fire, use chemical/biological protective equipment, and retrieve, assess, treat and evacuate casualties with a variety of wounds

"We came here knowing what's expected, but they threw so many things at us ... it's basically a reaction competition," said Staff Sgt. Medina. "The toughest part was dealing with the conditions. We had rain and a tornado warning, and slept under the stars two nights."

Sgt. Jonathan Bailey, 44th Medical Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., said the most memorable part of the event was the combat lane in the Camp Bullis military operations on urban terrain site.

"It was nothing short of spectacular, some of the best training I have received in the Army," Sgt. Bailey said.

"It was fun - good training," agreed Staff Sgt. Zheilad Gonzalez, Great Plains Regional Medical Command.

Twenty-nine competitors represented divisions, medical brigades, separate regiments, Medical Command's regional medical commands and the National Guard. All had previously earned the Expert Field Medical Badge or the Combat Medic Badge.

Staff Sgt. Medina recorded the highest score on the written test and fastest time on the foot march. Other leaders in the individual events were Sgt. 1st Class Villanueva in land navigation and the Top Medic Stakes, Staff Sgt. William Thurston in marksmanship, Staff Sgt. Gonzalez on the physical fitness test, Sgt. Ryan Hamilton on the obstacle course, Sgt. Joshua Flaherty on the night combat medical lane, Staff Sgt. Kelly Smith on the MOUT combat medical lane and Staff Sgt. Veliz on the second combat medical lane.

Staff Sgt. Medina, who has been in the Army six years, also won the title of Medical Command NCO of the Year last year.

"I do this because by setting the example I can be an inspiration to my young Soldiers," he said. "I want to lead by example and show others it can be done. It feels good when training pays off. Soldiers can see then that they can do it too."

(Mr. Jerry Harben writes for the U.S. Army Medical Department.)

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 13:04