FORT RUCKER, ALA. - Seventeen Soldiers and two Sailors joined the ranks of specialized medics when they graduated from the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine's Flight Medic course, Class 13 - 500, here Nov. 2.

Guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, commended the graduates on their accomplishment and extended his gratitude for their willingness to embrace their role as flight medics.

"You wouldn't be here now if you didn't have what it takes to succeed in this line of work," he said. "Look around the room, there's some folks missing from day one. That's because not everybody is cut out to do what's expected of a flight medic."

During the rigorous five-week course, students received training on pediatric education for pre-hospital professionals, advanced cardiac life support and advanced skills for treatment of a trauma patient. The culminating training event was a situational awareness training exercise consisting of in-flight patient care and point of injury care.

"Looking into this crowd, I see the combat patches on your shoulders," Stidley said. "I know you know what life in theater is like. That experience, combined with the training you've received here, will serve you well as a flight medic.

"However, I caution you to stay humble and remember that nothing can completely prepare you for what lies ahead," he added. "After that first mission, you'll come back with a completely different perspective on life and what it means to be an American service member."

Reflecting on his more than 33 years of aviation service, Stidley shared with the graduates his experience of being medevaced.

"Unfortunately, I was medevaced out of theater twice, from Camp Taji, Iraq and again from Bagram, Afghanistan," he said. "I'm thankful for the care I received from the medevac crew.

"As flight medics, you'll see the best and the worst humanity has to offer," Stidley continued. "You'll also see just how hard the human body and mind will fight to live. I am in constant awe of the abuse a person can suffer and still survive, with the right help. Now you are that help, the critical link that transcends death and turns back the tide toward life."

Col. Brian Smalley, USASAM dean, also praised the graduates on their achievement and reinforced the importance of their training.

"Congratulations, you've graduated today and you're flight medics," he said. "From now on, you'll need to work on maintaining your certification, maintaining your skills, and if you're not a paramedic yet, you'll be one soon. This course is just the beginning; it's a lifetime of learning."

"You are now part of an amazing and elite fraternity -- do your brother and sisters proud, and always do the right thing," Stidley said. "Good luck to you and may God bless and protect you all."