UTICA, N.Y. — For the second year in a row, two medics from New York’s Utica-based, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, will represent the Army National Guard at the Army’s annual Best Medic Competition.
Sergeants Klayton McCallum, a Syracuse resident, and Thomas Mulhern, from the hamlet of Cincinnatus, will compete at the Command Sgt. Major Jack L. Clark U.S. Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The grueling 72-hour competition begins January 23 and runs to the 27.
The events test Soldiers’ physical fitness, endurance, military knowledge and medical skills. They will be going around the clock with little sleep and get thrown challenge after challenge to test their abilities.
"The competition requires adaptability and agility, both physically and intellectually, through excruciating and continuous realistic tasks," said Master Sgt. Dustin Knapp, the senior medical operations non-commissioned officer for Army National Guard Medical Operations section.
In 2022, Staff Sgt. Dylan Delamarter, the 108th’s medical platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Ethan Hart, a medic in the platoon, represented the Army Guard against 21 other two-man teams.
Getting selected for the competition is a real honor, but there is a lot of pressure too, Mulhern said.
Their names were put in two months ago, McCallum said, but they only got a final confirmation a few days after the new year.
1st Sgt. Michael Hoffman, the top NCO in the battalion headquarters company, said he is confident that McCallum and Mulhern will meet the challenge. “These two NCOs are going to do outstanding,” Hoffman said. “They are highly technically and tactically proficient and physically fit. “
McCallum, who currently serves full-time as the 108th Infantry’s medical operations non-commissioned officer, joined the Army in 2014. He previously served as an airborne infantryman in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vincenza, Italy and became a medic when he joined the New York Army National Guard in 2017.
He changed from active duty to the Guard because he liked soldiering and “wanted to keep his foot in the door” as he pursued a civilian career, McCallum said. His inspiration to change his military occupational specialty came from two medics he served with in the 173rd.
McCallum has served as part of the COVID-19 response mission and deployed to Washington D.C. in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
Mulhern joined the Army in 2012 and served as a medic in the 101st Air Assault Division before joining the New York Army National Guard in 2016.
He currently works in construction but previously served full-time as the medical readiness non-commissioned officer for the FEMA Region II Homeland Response Force. He was also one of 7,077 Soldiers and Airmen who took part in the state’s COVID-19 response.
The two both hold the Expert Field Medic Badge, or EFMB, which is the medical equivalent of the Expert Infantry Badge. Both Soldiers have also served as cadre during EFMB competitions held by the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum.
Mulhern and McCallum both have active duty and Army Guard experience which should make them successful at the competition, Knapp said. "These combat medics are true professionals and capable of delivering tactical combat casualty care under the toughest conditions," he said.
In 2022, the request for a medical team to participate in the Army’s competition came at the last minute, said Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski, the New York Army National Guard’s top enlisted leader. Even then, the team beat half of the other competitors, he said.
This year the 108th Infantry Regiment volunteered early to field a team. “I think that Army Guard knows that they can count on New York to send ready Soldiers always,” Piwowarski said. “With the extra lead time, I am confident that this year’s competitors will excel, and make New York proud.”
To get ready for the Fort Polk competition, Mulhern and McCallum tapped into the experience Delamarter and Hart gained during the 2022 event.
While Hart deployed in June to the Horn of Africa with the New York Army National Guard’s Task Force Wolfhound, Delamarter has been working with them on a training plan.
They were able to visit the Medical Simulation Training Center at Fort Drum and did medical skills training with Delamarter, McCallum said. They spent time making sure they were technically ready.
Because there’s swimming involved, Delamarter also got them access to a swimming pool where they could jump in with their gear. “The water events make me a little nervous,” McCallum said.
The duo also spent time hiking with full packs, known as rucking. “The biggest challenge is the physicality of it,” Mulhern said. “It is my understanding that we are going to be rucking around a lot.”
Mulhern acknowledged that their competitors have been preparing for some time. They have competed in battalion, brigade and division competitions to get to the final competition. “They have been 175 percent for months,” he said.
But he and Mulhern “are immersed into it right now,” McCallum said. “We are going to execute once we get on the ground; whatever tasking they ask of us, whatever they want us to do, and do it with great enthusiasm and positivity.”