FORT BRAGG, N.C. - For Soldiers to prove that they were best medic, they not only had to possess medical skills, but they had to have the character, competence and toughness of a Soldier. Five-person teams with the 44th Medical Brigade competed to prove who the best medical team was during the inaugural Operation Dragon Medic Strong competition at Fort Bragg, N.C. Apr. 16-18, 2019.
"The goal was to focus on skill, will and teamwork," said Col. Kimberlee Aiello, commander of the 44th Med. Bde.
Medical Soldiers of all ranks, military occupational specialties and areas of concentration, came together to form nine teams to compete in the three-day competition designed to test them physically, mentally and spiritually.
"The Soldier, regardless of their MOS or AOC, came together as individuals to create remarkable teams and show that teamwork brings competence," Aiello said. "They had to show the drive, intestinal fortitude and resiliency to not quit."
The Soldiers were briefed that everyday would be an unknown challenge. During the 72 hours of continuous competition and approximately 75 miles of foot marching, the Soldiers didn't know when their next task would start or when they would sleep.
"It really was a non-stop, no-sleep, full-throttle event that tested the competitors and built teaming cohesion," said Maj. Stephen Krutko, the officer in charge of Operation Dragon Medic Strong.
With the factor of uncertainty playing a part, Soldiers completed 17 events that tested their technical competencies as medical personnel.
"Not quitting, no matter how hard things got, was the biggest challenge, as well as my greatest achievement throughout the entire competition," said Spc. Marsalyss Mathis, a Rialto, California, native and dental specialist assigned to 257th Dental Company Area Support, 44th Med. Bde. "Something in my heart wouldn't allow me to quit regardless of what my mind was telling me."
The commander of 44th Med. Bde. wanted to stress the importance of service members training as they fight.
"When troops get on a plane and fly over to combat, there's not a switch that turns on and says, 'ok I'm going to war now,'" Aiello said. "We are training our Soldiers to be able to deploy and perform to their maximum potential at a moment's notice."
The Dragon Medic leadership created these realistic training scenarios that furthered their annual training guidance and strengthened the bonds within the organization with readiness and resilience.
"In the face of the unknown and ambiguity, some people don't want to put their foot out there," Aiello said. "These individuals did that, and I am really proud of them."