By Tanya SchuslerMarch 15, 2016
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- "There is not another army on the face of this planet that provides the same level of medical care to its warriors as ours does," Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel Allyn said while speaking at the Army Medical Command assumption of command ceremony for Lt. Gen. Nadja West in February.
Keeping such a high level of care requires continuous learning and dedication.
Approximately 400 combat medic educators gathered for the 68W (Combat Medic) Leader Symposium from March 7-11 at Lackland Air Force Base with the same goal -- to impart knowledge to their 68W health care specialists on the latest ways to remain medically proficient and technically competent. 68Ws from Active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve along with Special Operations Forces from the Rangers, Civil Affairs and Special Operations Support Battalions and health care providers and nurses participated.
"The 68W is extremely important today," U.S. Army Medical Command, Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Ecker said. "The combat medic has always been and always will be the base of Army Medicine."
The 68W Leader Symposium provided a forum to discuss relevant issues for combat medics while maintaining vital noncommissioned officer training. The event highlighted the latest technology and treatment for combat medic training based on lessons learned from the past 14 years of war. This was the first time in five years the symposium took place.
"The 68W Symposium was an incredible peer-to-peer exchange of information and ideas regarding readiness and training," said Master Sgt. Michael Miller, AMEDD Center and School National Guard advisor.
Symposium topics included a review and discussion of enhanced combat medic skills, prolonging field care, the future of Army medicine, delivering care on the battlefield, and 68W scope of practice and sustainability and readiness. Plenary and breakout sessions rounded out the rest of the week's events.
Casualty care training was also a focal point in discussions.
While combat medics receive training that puts them at the same level as an emergency medical technician, their training goes above and beyond through Tactical Combat Casualty Care and other combat skill requirements as sole medical providers, said Ecker.
"Casualty care cannot be arbitrarily divided between care in theater and care back home," Army Medical Department Center and School Commanding General Maj. Gen. Steve Jones said. "It's a continuum. There is no separation. We deliver care as a team. Every member of the team is important."
Educators also stressed the importance of a one Army concept in the training process.
"The 68W Symposium was a refreshing discussion recognizing that all three components - Active, Guard and Reserve are essential to the mission," AMEDD Center and School Army Reserve Advisor Sgt. Maj. Ricky Guymon said. He reinforced the challenges of meeting the required training mandated in AR 350-1 and emphasized that noncommissioned officers need to be more creative in training Soldiers to meet required training and medical occupational specialty training demands.
"The intent is for all those who attended the 68W Leader Symposium last week is to bring the information back to their units for knowledge exchange that becomes action," Ecker said. "Everyone in attendance had the ability to influence improved training and operations in the generating or operational force for the sake of enhanced care on the future battlefield."
68Ws, or health care specialists, receive 16 weeks of training and are primarily responsible for providing emergency medical treatment, limited primary care and health protection and evacuation from a point of injury or illness in both the garrison and combat environments. They administer emergency medical treatment to battlefield casualties, assist with outpatient and inpatient care and treatment, prepare blood samples for laboratory analysis, and prepare patients, operating rooms, equipment and supplies for surgery.