FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Nov. 30, 2023) – The Army Medicine Strategic vision is clear, “Army Medicine must maintain the ability to employ the most skilled medical professional as far forward on the battlefield as possible, trained to the best of their abilities to provide healthcare in resource reduced environments.” The Combat Medic (68W) has always been at the frontlines of Army Medicine and must modernize their capability to meet tomorrow’s demand.
In a 2022 article titled, “Army Medicine’s Critical Role in Large Scale Combat Operations,” authors Lt. Col. Matthew K. Marsh and Cpt. Ryan L. Hampton wrote, “The increase in medical complexity and volume will necessitate enhanced skills at the tactical combat-medic level to facilitate resuscitative care and monitoring as far forward as feasible and extended throughout the roles of care.”
In July 2022, the Army established the additional skill identifier (ASI) to identify the ‘advanced combat medic’ with the National Registry Emergency Medical Technician Paramedic
(NREMT-P) Certification. The NREMT-P is internationally recognized as the paramedicine gold-star standard. This training provides the critical foundation and understanding required to build prolonged casualty care capabilities.
“It is important we train our medics how to think and not what to think. We can’t replace capabilities with a new mortar tube to meet the demand of the casualty, we must have the ability to critically think for our casualties and our leaders,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Diamond D. Hough, the 20th U.S. Army Medical Command (USAMEDCOM) Command Sgt. Major.
In preparation for the future battlefield, medics require advanced critical care training that facilitates a higher scope of practice. Much of this high-level advanced training is offered through military-civilian educational partnerships.
Eight years ago, tenant units on Fort Liberty, North Carolina, including the Womack Army Medical Center (WAMC), partnered with the Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) to establish an accelerated 20-week program of instruction that enhances the 68W Combat Medic certification. This accelerated program takes the Emergency Medical Technician-Basic (NREMT-B) certified 68W Combat Medic and enhances the 68W capability to become NREMT-P certified.
This training includes didactic, laboratory, clinical and ambulance (field) rotations. Completing the curriculum and practical training prepares the students for cognitive and psychomotor examinations and the NREMT-P Certification Exam. Successfully completing these examinations qualify these individuals to become a 68W3P and an opportunity to complete an associate degree through a bridge program.
On November 30, 2023, WAMC and FTCC celebrated the graduation of the 30th class in its accelerated Combat Paramedic Course. The 14 graduating soldiers labored over 596 hours of classroom and clinical instruction, including lectures, hands-on training, and real-world experience in emergency medical services. Students learned how to provide advanced life support services in emergency situations, to include: administering medications, performing advanced airway management, managing cardiac and trauma emergencies, as well as perform ambulance field training. Since its inception, 350 paramedics completed this rigorous training program.
The USAMEDCOM Command Sgt. Major, Timothy J. Sprunger, explained, “Fayetteville Community College has been such a great partner and ambassador of our soldiers. They have been our bedrock program because of their true commitment to excellence in training our soldiers.”
“It is an honor to not only provide training to our service members, but to watch them grow as professionals and evolve into paramedics. The partnership among civilians, military, and FTCC has been a success and will continue to prosper as we continue to enhance current and future educational offerings,” said Dr. Jolee Marsh, FTCC Educational Director and Associate Vice President for Corporate and Continuing Education.
One of the FTCC students, Sgt. 1st Class Nathaniel Lane, said, “When given the opportunity to participate in the WAMC Paramedic program, I jumped at the opportunity immediately. I recognized that the Army wants more from the 68W outside of our basic scope of practice. This course expanded my medical scope well outside of what it was and what I thought it would be. The instructors with decades of experience showed our class what right looks like out on the field while taking care of a casualty.”
Recently, a new partnership was initiated between El Paso Community College (EPCC), in El Paso, Texas and the William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) on Fort Bliss, Texas. EPCC designed a program in collaboration with the WAMC practices to meet the Army’s demands.
“The EPCC has a great program with state-of-the-art facilities to deliver a deliberate learning model,” said Sprunger.
The first EPCC class graduated on October 31, 2023. EPCC held a ceremony for the first 15 soldiers who completed this accelerated course. The ceremony was attended by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar; Brig. Gen. E. Darrin Cox, Commanding General, Medical Readiness Command, West, and other ranking military dignitaries. This accelerated six-day per week Paramedic Course is completed in 171 days.
“El Paso has always been a tremendous supporter of the military, and so it was a natural extension of support to reach out and look for one of the first partners of training across the country,” said Cox.
“El Paso Community College and the U.S. Army have had a long-standing relationship in educating Army medics to the paramedic level through tuition assistance. This has evolved to a new model of accelerated training allowing soldiers to be prepared to function as a paramedic and meet the needs of the U.S. Army,” said Tony Ayub, Coordinator of the EPCC Emergency Medical Services Paramedic program.
These programs provide graduates with civilian-credentialed paramedic training and empower the 68W to remain relevant while answering the call during any conflict. This capability enhancement synergizes the continuum of care from point of injury for life saving and life sustaining measures through transport. This capability development also increases the breadth of health care delivery across the military treatment facilities in the emergency department, intensive care units, and outpatient care. “Operating as integrated medical teams in our garrison setting to mirror our actions in crisis and conflict increases our effectiveness in mission readiness organically” said Sprunger.
Both FTCC and EPCC paramedic programs are examples of best practices in support of Army Medicine’s active military-civilian educational partnerships. The medics are better able to manage complex casualties and advise commanders of the associated risks to the patient and the mission. The result is clear. More lives are saved, and a healthier future ensured for injured, ill or wounded soldiers.