WASHINGTON — The Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Clark Army Best Medic Competition is a grueling three-day test of strength, knowledge and endurance held annually. This year’s competition at Fort Polk, Louisiana, put some of the best medics in the Army to the test by challenging their abilities to determine who is the most skilled.
This year’s winners, Capt. Alexander Kenney and Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Petty from the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Airborne Ranger Training Brigade, demonstrated exceptional skill, resilience and teamwork, solidifying their place among the top medics in the Army.
Combat medic specialists — also known by their military occupation specialty 68W — play a critical role in the Army. They are responsible for providing medical support to Soldiers on the battlefield and ensuring their health and well-being. They are often the first line of aid and care when Soldiers are injured or become ill.
Medics are required to be physically fit, mentally tough and knowledgeable in a wide range of medical procedures and techniques. The Army's Best Medic Competition is not only a test of individual skill and endurance but also a testament to the importance of the medic's role in the Army.
Kenney explained the competition is broken down into multiple phases: the Army Combat Fitness Test; an obstacle course; aircraft repelling; Combat Water Survival Test; a helocast; a ruck march; an extrication exercise; casualty hoist operations; M4 rifle qualifications; stress shoots; a written test; day and night land navigation; tactical combat casualty care; health services and support; prolonged field care; a mystery event; and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear event.
Kenney is a former combat medic and currently serves as the battalion physician assistant, or 65D, for the 6th Ranger Training Battalion. Petty, on the other hand, had no medical experience prior to joining the Army in 2009. Despite this, he chose to become a combat medic and worked hard to become an excellent one. Both Soldiers put in tremendous effort to achieve their status as top-tier medics.
Winning the Best Medic Competition requires more than just physical fitness and knowledge of medical procedures. It requires a relentless pursuit of excellence, a dedication to being the best possible version of oneself, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of fellow Soldiers.
Kenney and Petty have put in years of hard work and training to reach the level of skill and knowledge necessary to be the best medics in the Army. They have been tested in some of the most challenging and demanding environments imaginable, including combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and have emerged stronger and more resilient as a result. Their journey to the top of their field has been a long and difficult one, but it has prepared them well for the challenges that lie ahead.
Kenney noted that "being prepared and pushing the limits of what you know at any given time was super important."
This mentality of being a lifelong student is essential to being the best medic possible.
Petty agreed, saying that "It made me realize real quick that if I don’t stay on top of my medicine and my mental state, that not only am I going to feel the repercussions of it, but the guys are going to feel the repercussions of it as well."
Both Soldiers are now dedicated to teaching the next generation of medics.
"One of the best things about military medicine, especially as [physician assistants], is most of us are prior enlisted,” said Kenney. “Not a lot of us are direct commissions off the street or non-medical people beforehand, and we understand the value of building that in the next generation."
Petty, who now serves as the battalion senior medic and medic platoon sergeant, knows the importance of sharing his knowledge and experience.
"I want to be able to pass that knowledge on to them and see them want to do stuff and be able to help them with the connections I have to get to these other places,” he said. “Train them up to go to these places and go to schools that I have been to and that Capt. Kenney has been to, we have that knowledge to pass to them to see them be successful."
Petty is also keenly aware of the weight of his responsibility at 6th Ranger Training Battalion.
“It’s the most dangerous, the most high-risk battalion in the United States Army,” he said. “Maintaining health and welfare is a huge portion of that, and understanding what each one is going through — which is why we’re all Ranger tabbed as well — we’ve all been through the program. So knowing what their issues are, and knowing what their struggles are, are super helpful in being able to deliver effective care and anticipate what their challenges are going to be medically."
The Ranger Tab refers to a badge earned by Soldiers who have completed the grueling Army Ranger School, a course that specializes in small unit tactics and leadership. Rangers develop functional skills directly related to units whose mission is to engage the enemy in close combat and direct fire battles.
Kenney and Petty have done what few in the Army have. They have proven that they are the best of the best. But for them, it is not about the accolades, but about the work they do every day to make sure that their fellow Soldiers are healthy and well.
"Integrity and dedication. It’s a no-fail mission, so you have to be dedicated to what you do,” said Kenney. “And the integrity piece of it is not only doing the right thing 100% of the time, but having the self-check, self-awareness, the integrity to take it up every day. Learn something new and be better than you were yesterday, because medicine is a lifelong learning experience."
Petty agreed, saying he’s "trying to instill in them the confidence and knowledge and a willingness to want to grow both medically and as a Soldier."
Kenney and Petty serve as role models for anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of others, and they exemplify the very best of what it means to serve in the U.S. Army.
"The greatest benefit that you can actually see is from the ground up," said Kenney.
"I do enjoy the fact that I continually have to learn, and it’s not something I get bored with," said Petty. "That willingness to never give up has really made me succeed throughout the Army."