Sgt. Brandon Gracia along with Spc. Trevor Taylor are back at Fort Polk, Louisiana with another chance to bring the first-place trophy back to the Ivy Division.
Sgt. Brandon Gracia along with Spc. Trevor Taylor are back at Fort Polk, Louisiana with another chance to bring the first-place trophy back to the Ivy Division. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- In 2021, combat medics with the 4th Infantry Division competed in the Army’s Best Medic Competition, winning first place. Last year, Spc. Brandon Gracia and his former teammate, Sgt. Ismael Marquez, won fourth place. Now, recently promoted Sgt. Gracia along with his new teammate, Spc. Trevor Taylor, are back at Fort Polk, Louisiana, with another chance to bring the first place trophy back to the Ivy Division.

“I’m so excited to get the opportunity to do this again,” said Gracia, a combat medic assigned to 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div. “It definitely feels good bringing back that experience from last year to be able to mentor my partner, work together and hopefully win this event.”

According to the U.S. Army Center of Medical Excellence, the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. U.S. Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Polk takes place from Jan. 23-27, 2023. The 72-hour event hosts two-medic teams who won their division-level BMC as they “compete against each other to see who is truly the very best medic in the entire Army,” said Taylor, a combat medic assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 4th Inf. Div.

After failing to achieve victory last year, Gracia said he has been training every day with Taylor since the Ivy Division’s BMC in December 2022. In just a few short weeks, they learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, how to communicate and how to work effortlessly as a team.

“My teammate and I came in fourth place last year, so that was pretty good, but we did fall short,” Gracia said. “I have a better idea now of what they’re looking for in terms of grading. This year, we’ve gone over weapons qualifications, prolonged casualty care, full length catheters, test tubes and a lot of advanced medical skills.”

Taylor said he feels lucky to be paired with a knowledgeable medic like Gracia while in Fort Polk.

“He has a lot of insight on what to expect,” said Taylor. “He’s a good reference point on what they’ve done before.”

Gracia said he is all too familiar with competing as a junior enlisted Soldier under the guidance of an NCO. Now as an NCO leading the way, the roles have reversed as he looks to provide the same leadership and lessons his previous partners and trainers bestowed upon him.

“What I learned from them was to take everything day by day, not get too worked up about the little things that don’t go your way, execute what you’ve studied for and, whatever you haven’t studied for, hope you have enough knowledge and just go for it,” he said.

As for Taylor, he said Gracia sets a good example for him as a combat medic and as a competitor.

“The path he went on is a good road map for me,” Taylor said. “He’s a great mentor and a great, squared-away medic. I’m glad he’s my partner and NCO.”

Both Soldiers are currently at Fort Polk, sizing up their competition and getting in any last bit of studying they can.

“I’ve seen some of the other competitors and some of them look formidable,” Taylor said. “I’m a little bit nervous for the unknown, but confident in my skills and my partner. I think we're going to do very well. The goal is first place. No matter how it turns out, it’s a good experience, good training, and it’s exciting. We look forward to proving ourselves while representing the 4th Inf. Div. in the process.”