By Staff Sgt. Leah KilpatrickMay 10, 2016
This was just one of many feats required to win the 1st Cavalry Division's Best Medic Competition conducted April 26-27 here.
The two medics who scored the highest in a series of arduous tasks, testing basic Soldier skills as well as medical competencies, earned the honor of representing the division at the pinnacle of Army medical excellence, the Army Best Medic Competition in Camp Bullis, Texas, in September.
But on this damp April morning, with fatigue bearing down on them, the candidates had only will power and heart to keep them upright and moving toward the finish line.
"We are doing the division-level best medic competition," said 1st Lt. David Attanasio, the First Team surgeon cell's patient administrator. "We are running 12 candidates from the subordinate brigades through a series of medical lanes and warrior tasks, standardized with the Expert Field Medical Badge testing."
The candidates began the day with an enhanced physical fitness test, akin to the Marine Corps PFT, with two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups, pullups, and a 3-mile run.
And just to set the tone for the entire event, the PFT was quickly followed by an obstacle course, requiring the candidates to climb a rope, jump over and under parallel bars, leap over walls and negotiate their way over a cargo net wall.
"The guys we got came out here motivated, determined," Attanasio said. "They would not be beat until their bodies gave out."
As Soldiers and civilians began trickling into their workplaces at 9 a.m., the candidates were just arriving at their third event, a five-mile tactical foot march carrying roughly 60-pound rucksacks. The event began when the Soldiers flexed their land navigation skills and plotted their points.
Then they stepped off, and along their route they encountered various tasks to complete and "casualties" to treat.
At any one of the four stations, they might find themselves triaging and loading patients into a military vehicle or controlling bleeding using a tourniquet and subsequently evacuating the casualty or treating an abdominal wound and initiating an IV.
The candidates conducted a stress shoot with both the M16 rifle and the M9 pistol inside the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 and ended the day establishing a casualty collection point, maneuvering through the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site and conducting casualty evacuation operations.
But it didn't end there.
Before the sun had arisen, 12 candidates stepped off on a 12-mile stroll. The fatigue from the previous day's events took its toll on some of them, but there were others who would not be defeated.
"I just don't quit," said Sgt. Edwin Luchendo, a medic assigned to the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Div. "If I quit, I will feel so much worse than I would be feeling right now, so I'd rather just go ahead and finish it and just keep it moving."
Luchendo was in the lead for most of the foot march, but when Sgt. Nicholas Santos saw that he could finally catch him, it was game on.
"I just don't like to quit, and towards the end I stated seeing [Luchendo], and I thought he was a lot farther ahead of me, so I guess it's that whole competition thing," said Santos, a senior medic with 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd ABCT. "I was like, 'Oh, I can actually catch him now, so I'm going to push even harder and harder and harder.'"
Covered in sweat, tired and achy all over, Santos and Luchendo ran the final stretch of the foot march. Only one more obstacle lie ahead -- the written test -- to determine who was going on to San Antonio to attempt the Army Best Medic Competition.
Luchendo said winning in San Antonio would mean a lot to him.
"That would be a great achievement, because not a lot of people have that," said the Arlington, Texas, native. "Even the opportunity to go for it, not everyone can do that. It's a big deal."
Together with the scores from all of the events, the pair scored the highest among the other 10 candidates and earned the honor of representing the First Team in San Antonio.
Now with five months to train for the medical crucible of a lifetime, for Luchendo and Santos, the real work hasn't even begun.