By Emily Yeh, RHC-P Public AffairsNovember 8, 2017
HONOLULU -- The U.S. Army Medical Command's 2017 Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition took place over 72 hours, at Camp Bullis, Texas. Regional Health Command-Pacific's top two finishers from the 2017 Pacific Best Medic competition represented the region at the event, Oct. 29 - Nov 2, 2017.
The region was represented by 2nd Lt. Adam Schafer, 65th Medical Brigade and Sgt. Ryan Harpster, Bassett Army Community Hospital at the U.S. Army Best Medic team event alongside other two-person U.S. Army medic teams. Schafer and Harpster represented RHC-P well, placing second overall in the Army's Best Medic competition last week and winning the best medical skills category.
Schafer and Harpster earned the honor to represent the region after Schafer received the highest score of all competitors in the 2017 Pacific Best Medic competition, while Harpster was the runner-up. Both Soldiers have also earned the Expert Field Medical Badge or the Combat Medical Badge a prerequisite for participating in the competition.
"Placing second and winning the best medical skills category shows the strength of the medics in our region. 2nd Lt. Schafer and Sgt. Harpster's performance also sets the bar for future best medic competitors," said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Watson, RHC-P's senior enlisted advisor.
Soldiers faced numerous challenges during the competition including a Soldier readiness test, a World War I era physical fitness test, a foot march, a chemical, biological, radiological lane event, an orienteering course, rifle skills, combat stress shoot, obstacle course and warrior task and battle drills. The exercises tested medical personnel on modern standards and procedures that they may face in combat.
"The most challenging part of the competition was staying sharp and attentive to the small details while I was very physically uncomfortable," stated Schafer. "There was never a point where I was not hot, freezing, sore, in pain or struggling with fire ant bites. It required a mental toughness to push out those distractions which was crucial for our success."
Throughout the competition Soldiers could be seen flipping tires, as well as conducting patient drags and litter carries. They completed numerous movement exercises which required navigating obstacle courses.
During the competition, Soldiers were required to conduct medical exercise testing lanes showing their ability to properly don gear and perform patient decontamination, in some instances under enemy fire, to recover and treat patients, dragging and low-crawling patients up a hill to a decontamination area. They were also challenged to cut through the simulated metal skin of a helicopter with axes to rescue a wounded crew member. Each team performed life-saving interventions before continuing on to a helicopter MEDVAC.
According to Schafer, it took raw grit to succeed. He never wanted to let his partner down, so when things got hard he just had to push back harder. His ability to communicate and understand his teammate's strengths and weaknesses were essential to knowing where each needed to be at any given time.
"From both a team and an individual perspective resiliency was huge," said Schafer. "Being able to move past mistakes and focus on what was ahead for us in the competition was the key to our success."
Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, surgeon general of the U.S. Army and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker, senior enlisted advisor, U.S. Army Medical Command, presided over the award ceremony where teams were presented with certificates of achievement. Each team was acknowledged for their representation of their command and participation in the competition.
"This achievement is huge for me. I never expected to compete at this competition, let alone do as well as we did," stated Schafer. "It also improved my Soldier readiness. I can now take what I experienced back to my unit and prepare Soldiers with better day-to-day training, and assist in preparing those who may compete in future Best Medic competitions."
West and Ecker also presented the top three winning teams with medals, the MEDCOM Commanders Coin of Excellence and the MEDCOM Command Sergeant Major's Coin of Excellence.
"It was an honor to represent RHC-P, 8th Army, 65th Medical Brigade, and the 121st CSH/BAACH. There were a lot of people from those commands who believed in me, and invested their time to get me to that level, so I'm glad I was able to make them proud," said Schafer.
"I am very proud of the region's best medic team," said Watson. "Schafer and Harpster represented the region well and gained a lot of respect with the cadre."