Eight Fort Sill medics "deployed" to Liberty City Feb. 12 for Combat Medic Advanced Skills Training and gained more than completion of an annual training requirement.

CMAST is part of the Army's Medical Education and Demonstration of Individual Competence, or MEDIC, program that familiarizes, refreshes and recertifies combat medics on lifesaving techniques and procedures.

Not new, but improved
Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Mixon said CMAST has been around about three years and was initially conducted at Reynolds Army Community Hospital for Fort Sill medics. Only since August has the hands-on portion moved outdoors providing more meaningful training to the 57 medics who've completed the training so far.

"On today's modern battlefield, leaders need to be creative and critical thinkers, and able to adapt regardless of the situation," said Mixon. "CMAST reinforces this requirement through realistic combat scenarios many of which were developed by medics in combat who cared for wounded Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Master Sgt. Michelle Jones is the NCOIC of the plans, mobilization, education, training and security division, the Soldiers who planned, coordinated and executed CMAST training. She said CMAST validates the skills combat medics must have to do their job.

"Anyone can be book smart, but when the rubber meets the road you find out if people really know what they are supposed to do, said Jones. "CMAST gives us the ability to test each student and ensure we can trust them to do what the Army expects of them when they go to combat.

Real scenarios
Before entering the training scenario, instructors provided students information about their roles and responsibilities as members of a squad along with information on how to operate tactical radios and clear buildings. Students then entered the scenario as a four-member squad and completed it as medics and security personnel.

As each squad entered the city, opposition forces and squad members exchanged fire. The squad progressed through the scenario from one safely secured location to the next while medics moved casualties out of the line of fire, performed tactical field care and prepared them for evacuation. The scenario ended once they moved the casualties to a loading zone for medical evacuation.
Then the after action review commenced.

Staff Sgt. Jeff Leger is one of the medics with combat experience who trains course attendees and critiques their performance. His resume includes extensive time spent training Iraqi army combat medics during a year-long deployment.

"CMAST requires medics to think outside the box, and that's a skill they will definitely need when executing their medical skills in combat," said Leger. "The AAR allows us to discuss what students did well and what areas they could improve on. And, the information shared here goes both ways, because instructors learn from the different ways students approach the scenario."

Spc. Brooke Cabello, who just came back from a deployment in 2007, said the recordings of explosions, smoke and frequent fire from automatic weapons combined with the austere conditions at Liberty City made for a realistic environment.

"Training conducted earlier this week, reminded me to keep looking for solutions to the problems I encountered," she said.

The four-phase MEDIC program includes classroom and hands-on instructions on CMAST, basic life support, emergency medical technician (basic) refresher skills training and emergency medical technician (basic) course if needed. Soldiers in the rank of Specialist and above who successfully complete the first three phases can move on to the final phase and become certified CMAST trainers.

"The whole idea is to get Soldiers to think and improvise when needed," said Mixon. "We keep looking for ways to improve this course so that our medics are best prepared for what they might experience when called to deploy."