JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- The Fort Eustis Medical Department Activity recently hosted the Regional Health Command Atlantic Best Medic Competition in conjunction with the Iron Diamond Challenge at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, July 29 - Aug. 2, 2019.
Participants in the Iron Diamond Challenge, an annual event exclusively for first sergeants that measures and evaluates leadership skills, partnered to lead Soldiers from 15 units as they competed in two-man teams in the Best Medic Competition.
Realistic competition evaluating tactical medical proficiency in simulated combat environments tested competitors as they faced 48 hours of continuous operations that began with the Army Combat Fitness Test and continued to combat water rescue, dynamic pistol shooting, day and night land navigation, mass casualty rescue, care under fire scenarios, basic warrior tasks, written tests and a 27-mile ruck.
"It's a real test of endurance, strength and mental agility," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kelly McGalliard, MEDDAC troop medical services noncommissioned officer in charge. "During this competition, not only are we testing our medical skills, but we're testing them [participants] in different scenarios and different environments they're going to be used in as far as operations."
One such scenario is the care under fire exercise, which required competitors to enter a simulated combat environment and execute combat lifesaver tactics, patient evaluation, treatment and casualty evacuation.
"It was chaos, but we were able to focus on our objective and complete our mission," said Staff Sgt. Darwin Prudencio, MEDDAC patient administration division noncommissioned officer in charge. "It was overwhelming because there was so much going on with all the smoke, people yelling at us and banging on the walls. The stress was so real and the role-players did such a great job in creating that environment."
Prudencio, who was previously named installation-level best medic, explained the most challenging aspect was working under continuous operations as Soldiers were only able to rest in short bursts between objectives.
"We would have five minutes here or 10 minutes there to rest our eyes for a bit," Prudencio continued. "After completing our tasks, we had just enough time to drink water and recover for a few minutes then we would have to get up and start rucking to the next objective."
According to McGalliard, the weather posed an added challenge but competition organizers considered it important training for when service members are suddenly deployed and must immediately adjust to conditions and execute a successful mission.
"The weather here is very hard to predict and it was sweltering throughout the week," McGalliard said. "We had competitors here from across the region that may have been coming from a much cooler environment, but they adjusted quickly and pushed themselves to perform under these harsh conditions."
The competition concluded with an awards ceremony at Wylie Theater where Staff Sgt. Claevon Salter, Medical Services Clinic noncommissioned officer and Staff Sgt. Philip Matherly, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center radiology noncommissioned officer at Fort Gordon, Georgia, were announced as the winners of the Regional Health Command Atlantic Best Medic Competition.
Salter and Matherly will move on to compete at the Army Medical Command Best Medic Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Army Regional Health Command - Atlantic