Six Army medics completed the first Brooke Army Medical Center 68W Sustainment Course May 10, placing them one step closer towards being prepared for unexpected situations in wartime.

Army medics Sgt. Jason Crandall, Sgt. Andrew Meyer, Spc. Travis Hogberg, Spc. Christopher Gifford, Spc. Steven Kou and Spc. Mychal Northrip used what they learned in a classroom setting May 2-6, to attend to casualties, while under fire at Al Dora village at Camp Bullis.

“A lot of what we do as medics is perishable skills,” said Gifford, who works in pediatrics. “Working at a hospital or clinical environment doesn’t offer a whole lot of opportunities to get the hands-on-training that we need to maintain our skills. I like being able to apply those things that I have learned.”

Medics were trained on such topics as wound care, mental health, CPR skills, and battlefield medicine in preparations for skills validation course.

“The training not only allows the individual being trained to take it in as a serious manner but to place themselves in the scenario as if it was a real-time situation,” said Sgt. Leonard Strazza, 68W (combat medics) Sustainment Training Coordinator for Brooke Army Medical Center.

“Therefore, the Soldier will be better prepared and more confident when they are in an actual situation that mimics the training they receive here at BAMC,” said Strazza, who developed the 68W Sustainment Course from the ground up.

The overall program consisted of a five-day Medical Education and Demonstration of Individual Competence (MEDIC) Tables course followed by a skills validation to give the Soldiers a total of 48 of the 72 required hours required by the National Registry.

Strazza said this was the first time that this caliber of training has been offered to BAMC medics.

“Normally in a regular deploying installation, MEDIC Tables are divided up and taught once a week over a period of a year,” he said, “however, due to the mission of the hospital for patient care, it’s not possible to conduct sergeants’ time (one day of training conducted across the Army) at the hospital. So, the BAMC 68W Sustainment Course was developed.”

The course enables BAMC medics to keep up their skill standards according to their military occupational specialty and to meet the minimum standards required to maintain their CPR card and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)- certification.

Based on the Training Circular known as TC8-800, the program not only covers all seven tables listed in the TC8-800, but also covers every area of responsibility a 68W may encounter.

These scenarios include a combat-related scenario with a convoy of military vehicles attempting to make its way through cramped and crowded streets of local nationals’ vendors " portrayed by role players " selling their wares while loud Arabic music blares from two speakers. On a moment’s notice, roadside explosions occur signaling a battle between Iraqi police and a group of hostile local nationals in a high-rise building.

In sets of two, the training medics scramble, racing into action to care for casualties, pulling them from a Humvee, while dodging gunfire. Eventually, the causalities are removed from the vehicle to a temporary safe zone, where the medics encounter additional causalities inside a dark, two-story building.

Realism is brought to life as fake blood spurts from injured Soldiers necks, legs and chest. Working together as a team, the medics administer care using whatever is available in their aid bag.

“The class was a definite eye opener for those who haven’t been deployed,” said Crandall, “the simulated combat area gives you a good feel of how it would be.”

Strazza said at each turn, medics were graded on the care of causalities, response to the causalities, taking charge of the situation, thinking out of the box, and most importantly, learning to stay calm in a chaotic situation.

“Communication is vital in a chaotic situation,” advised Staff Sgt. Daniel Ribbentrop, one of the training graders, during the review process. “If not, the situation takes control of you. Remember when people get injured, they look to you (medics). You’re the experts.”

As the training intensifies, scenarios run the full gamut with local nationals (role players) bum rushing the medics, requesting care for their family members to complaining of Soldiers being in their homes enviably pushing the medics to remain calm even in a combat situation.

The training concluded with each team member giving IVs to their battle buddy.

Referencing the old Army saying ‘Train as we Fight’, Strazza said the goal was to train the medics as close to what they would experience in a situation in real life.

In that respect, he said, our goal was exceeded by great strides.