FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Last year, Sgt. 1st Class David McAfee, the Weed Army Community Hospital primary care noncommissioned officer in charge, and his teammate came in third place at the U.S. Army Best Medic Competition.
This year, they won first place in the 2022 U.S. Army Best Medic Competition, which took place Jan. 24-28 at Fort Hood, Texas.
McAfee represented Weed ACH during Regional Health Command-Central’s Best Medic Competition Sept. 21-22, 2021 at Fort Carson, Colo., and placed in the top two overall competitors, earning him a spot on RHC-C’s team in the Army-wide competition.
Once again, McAfee competed with Maj. Bryan Ahlborn, an optometrist from Fort Hood, Texas.
“I know that due to his competitive personality he’s always going to try his absolute hardest … so I was going to do the same thing and put my best foot forward,” McAfee, a Knoxville, Tenn. native, said of Ahlborn.
McAfee said he and Ahlborn would not have won the competition without two things: training and resiliency.
In preparation for the Army-wide competition, McAfee attended multiple courses including Medical Master Gunner at Fort Hood, Texas, and Field Management of Chemical & Biological Casualties Course at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
“The training definitely helped us with the technical aspect [of the competition],” McAfee said.
Resiliency applied both physically and emotionally, according to McAfee.
“Both of us are very physically fit and fitness-oriented people even in our off time, whether were competing or not, and that helped build our resilience toward the physical demands of the competition,” McAfee said. “It’s difficult to remain calm when you’re exhausted and frustrated when things aren’t working well for you, so as soon as that event is over, you just kind of look back at it, reflect on what when wrong and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
During the competition, the teams competed in multiple events over several days, including medical lanes where they treated simulated casualties on a battlefield and continued treatment on the way to the next level of care.
The scenarios provided even more realistic situations than last year’s competition, McAfee said.
“I think it is more oriented toward the battlefield that we’re kind of headed toward where we may not have air evacuation assets, so we would have to treat [on the battlefield] and then continue our care through the ground evacuation process,” he said. “They’ve done a good job at adapting to the way forward with medical and tactical medicine.”
When Army leadership began announcing the names of the winning teams, McAfee said he was incredibly hopeful and nervous.
“When they didn’t call our names for second place, I was like well, we either won or we didn’t place at all,” he said. “Thankfully, they called us as first.”
McAfee said he felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude when his team won.
“I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to go and compete, I’m thankful for my teammate for always helping me out, and I’m incredibly thankful that everyone trusted me to represent Regional Health Command-Central and Weed Army Community Hospital,” he said.
Col. Nancy Parson, the Weed ACH commander, said the entire hospital staff is extremely proud of McAfee.
“His dedication, perseverance, and overall drive proved him to be successful this year,” she said. “He is a strong competitor and Army Warrior and the Army Medical Department, Regional Health Command-Central, and Weed Army Community Hospital are proud of his accomplishments.”
Following his recent success, McAfee has now set his sights set on Ranger School, the Project Warrior Program, and mentoring other Soldiers at Weed ACH.
“I feel very interested in helping other people within organization prepare for competitions,” McAfee said, mentioning Fort Irwin’s upcoming Best Warrior Competition and next year’s Best Medic Competition. “I’d love to help prepare some of the medics who are competing for that.”