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.
Sgts. Klayton McCallum, a Syracuse resident, and Thomas Mulhern, from the hamlet of Cincinnatus, will compete at the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark U.S. Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Jan. 23-27.
The grueling 72-hour event tests Soldiers’ physical fitness, endurance, military knowledge and medical skills. They face challenge after challenge around the clock with little sleep.
“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 noncommissioned 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-person teams.
Getting selected for the competition is a real honor, but there is a lot of pressure, Mulhern said.
“These two NCOs are going to do outstanding,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Hoffman, the top NCO in the battalion headquarters company. “They are highly technically and tactically proficient and physically fit. “
McCallum, the 108th Infantry’s full-time medical operations noncommissioned officer, joined the Army in 2014. He 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.
McCallum said 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 served as part of the COVID-19 response mission and deployed to Washington after the Jan. 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 works in construction but previously served full-time as the medical readiness noncommissioned officer for the FEMA Region II Homeland Response Force. He was also one of 7,077 Soldiers and Airmen who participated 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.
Knapp said Mulhern and McCallum’s active duty and Army Guard experience should make them successful at the competition.
“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. Maj. 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 prepare, 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 on a training plan with them.
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.”