By Sgt. John Couffer, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsJanuary 20, 2012
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- The sky was overcast and the climate cool as Soldiers donned protective body armor and helmets. These Soldiers steeled themselves, steadied their nerves and readied their weapons for the next life-saving ten minutes of their lives.
Medics assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, competed head-to-head for the coveted title of Best Medic during the annual Best Medic Competition held by the Stallions at Camp Buehring, Kuwait on Jan 13.
The leaders if the competition, although looking for a winner, were also hoping to send another message.
"I want them to know that they are capable of doing their job, that they can go out in a combat situation, save lives and bring Soldiers back home alive. That's the end state I want [them to take] out of this," said Staff Sgt. Christian Rohde a native of Fort Worth, Tx., a combat medic and platoon sergeant assigned to the Stallion Battalion of the Ironhorse Brigade.
Rohde said that this Best Medic Competition consisted of testing in four different areas: a written exam testing clinical knowledge, patient administration and Sick Call operations, patient emergency medical assessment and treatment, and casualty care in a combat environment. He added that the competition is the culmination of two weeks of formal training in these four areas.
Rohde attested that the tests the medics are being graded on are based off the Army training doctrine given to combat medics, and that it is not only a competition but also medic sustainment and certification training so the medics can retain or build upon their skill set.
Being a medic for some time, Rohde said that he hopes the medics walk away from the competition with the confidence of job performance, the importance of being in shape mentally and physically, and a better understanding of the rigors a medic may experience in combat.
This Best Medic Competition is different than the testing for the Expert Field Medical Badge, a skill badge similar to the Expert Infantry Badge that focuses on medical tasks. This environment allows the medics to exercise their own judgment.
"We're testing the medic's actual skills, giving them a little bit of freedom in taking care of the patient [by] using what they've learned over the years [and] their own techniques and common sense," said Capt. Anthony Rakofsky, a native to Augusta, Ga., and the Physician Assistant for the Stallions. "We want these guys to think, to adapt as appropriate and use their own experience and common sense."
Rakofsky said that in this competition the medics aren't repeating something they have memorized. On the contrary, the medics are treating the wounds and reacting to the patient and the environment around them.
Rakofsky added that this competition is the first time in a while that all of the medics in the Stallion were able to assemble for training due to the types of missions they were running. He said that this is a great opportunity for the medics to get to know one another and build camaraderie.
"You get to spread the knowledge and the experience," Rakofsky said. "It's good team building and it's fun for everyone."
Rakofsky added that the medics, with their mentality and training, are the best medics in the Ironhorse Brigade, and he is willing to prove it anytime.
One medic in particular hopes to get something even better than winning.
"[I want] a greater knowledge, proficiency in the skill set. Even if you don't win, this kind of competition inspires a spirit of teamwork and competitive spirit, and it makes you a better at your job," said Los Angeles native, Spc. Dan Grove, a medic assigned to the Stallion's Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
Grove said that he was initially nervous when he heard of the competition, but that throughout the past two weeks of training, he received guidance and tips from fellow medics and leaders to calm his nerves.
Grove also said that he felt the competition added such a level of realism and that the only thing missing were real bullets. He was grateful for his leaders during the competition because they pushed him to complete the tasks within the time limit and supported him throughout the course. Grove especially liked the aspect of the teamwork involved in the competition.
"You have a chance to work as a team and [the competition] only makes you a better medic," Grove said.
Another medic who competed said that he was thankful for the training aspect prior to the competition.
"I wasn't the guy trying to get the bragging rights for being the Best Medic. I wanted to better my skill set so if I come across a casualty, I will be able to perform and help them get home," said San Antonion, Tx. native Spc. Richard Stevens, a medic assigned to A Co. of the Stallions.
Stevens said that running the course with all of its distractions and obstacles while wearing full protective gear, added a level of difficulty that forces one to focus both mentally and physically. He added that he is naturally competitive and even though the graders weren't pressuring him, he pushed through the course.
"I would like to see more of it," Stevens said about the training and competition.
In the end, this is a competition and only one can be named the Best Medic.
"This is a winner takes all deal. There are no points for second place. Not everyone gets a trophy," Rohde said.