Combat Medic wrapping a Service Members right arm

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Field/Combat Medics

Health Science

Service Branches

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Work Environment

Field/combat medics usually work in hospitals and clinics on land or aboard ships. Medical emergency technicians may give emergency medical treatment in the field.

  • Military Status


  • Median Military Salary This is the median, or the midpoint, of the salary range for this career.


    Military Salary Range Salary varies based on years of service, degree level, special pays, family status and location.

    $27,775 - $258,987


Some Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are trained to provide medical care in an operational or combat environment. These EMTs, sometimes called field/combat medics, provide frontline trauma and medical care to deployed personnel. They care for those suffering from disease as well as those injured in combat. In addition to being prepared to work in combat, these health professionals are often trained in health concerns related to specific conditions, such as those encountered during diving or flight operations.

Military Training

All enlisted service members complete basic military training which includes time spent in a classroom and in the field and covers tactical and survival skills physical training military life and customs and weapons training. Job training for field/combat medics consists of classroom and on-the job instruction including practice in providing patient care. Training content varies depending on specialty and may include:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Basic patient care
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Minor surgical procedures
  • Clinical laboratory procedures
  • Methods for diagnosing diseases
  • Plaster-casting techniques

Helpful Attributes

  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Ability to work under stressful conditions
  • Interest in helping others

Related Civilian Careers

  • Dental Assistants
  • Medical Assistants
  • Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians
  • Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists
  • Critical Care Nurses

What does it take to be the Army's "Best Medic?"

This episode of SOLDIERS introduces you to the Army's annual Best Medic competition at Camp Bullis, Texas. 32 teams come to compete from across the Army. We followed a team from the 10th Mountain Division as they return to compete in the competition for a second time. Last year they came in 11th and they are seeking to improve on that. Watch and find out how they do.

Length 16:02 View Transcript


Why do you want to compete, and spend three days just in the dirt, and tired, and working so hard.

What is it about it that you like that so much? You put me in an aide station or a hospital, and I will go nuts.

[Lance] On this episode of Soldiers, we find out what it takes to be crowned the best medic in the United States Army.

I'm looking forward to seeing the suffering.

So you take a certain amount of joy in that, don't you?

You gotta be a little sadistic when it comes to creating competitions.

Because if you don't make it challenging, if you don't make it worth the flight when you get here, then why even have it.

We linked up with two soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who are back for a second chance.

As soon as they announced the winners, I looked at Jarrod and I told him like "Hey, "we're coming back again." Him and I have one of those love/hate relationships. Things are either really good with us, and then there's like (bleep).

All the teams that were here to compete at best medic were talented, but finding a team that wanted to come back and go through this insanity again, this was a no-brainer.

(pumping rock music)

♫ Oh oh oh oh

♫ Oh oh oh oh

♫ Oh oh oh oh

♫ Oh oh oh oh

It's 7:30 and we are heading to Camp Bullis. Camp Bullis is where the Best Medic Competition is and tonight is the last few things you're gonna do before they kick the events off tomorrow.

And we are gonna pay particular attention to a group of soldiers from the 10th Mountain. It's two soldiers, and they actually competed last year so they're back for more.

[Soldier] Yeah, I'm over on the Lake Huron side.

So let me ask you, did you join when your first enlistment was, did you come in as a medic?

I did, yep.

What drew you to that?

My dad, when I told him I was joining the army, my dad said "join anything that's not infantry." He didn't want me doing infantry, and I thought I'd be slick because I knew the medics worked with infantry, so I became a medic just as a way to underhandedly go work with the infantry.

Yeah, yeah.

And what about you, what was your draw?

Did you come in as a medic too?

Yeah, I came in as a medic. I had a brother who was in the medic, he was in the Air Force, he was in the medic side, but it was, I don't know why I did it, honestly, I just picked the job, they offered me a bunch of jobs, like man, maybe that job could transfer over to something when I get out, so I was like,"yeah, I'm just gonna be a medic." I love it.

So when we cover a competition like this, it's really important that the crew doesn't get in the way. So after talking to them for a couple minutes, we figured it would be best to leave them alone, let them get their rest, 'cause they were gonna need it.

On the first day of the competition, we met Master Sergeant Mike Eldred.

Now, he's the mastermind behind this whole thing, he'd been planning this competition for two years.

Let's take a step back and tell me a little bit about the history of the Best Medic Competition, how long has it been going on and when did it start?

It started in the '80s, as the Expert Field Medical Competition. It was a opportunity for us to take the best of the best, and demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

I think what I'm seeing, is there's a real desire to test them on all levels, physical, mental, we're testing cognitive abilities, we're testing their ability to think.

And their emotional level. I'm putting them in circumstances where they're gonna have reactions, emotional reactions that'll be part of their stress level.

Because combat is unpredictable.

That's right.

We're trying to incorporate agile, adaptive thinking processes, using critical thinking processes into their decisions. I'm looking forward to seeing the suffering.

So you take a certain amount of joy in that, don't you?

You gotta be a little sadistic when it comes to creating competitions because if you don't make it challenging, if you don't make it worth the flight to get here, then why even have it?

So there are some guys that are coming back, they're repeat clients. What does it say about those guys, they come, they play,

They're masochists.

They're masochists.

(helicopter whirring)

All 32 teams take a series of fitness tests. The better you do, the earlier you start. It's literally a race against time to finish all the lanes. Our team from the 10th Mountain ended up in the middle of the pack, so they kind of got a late start.

Walk me through that first day of activities you experienced, what happened?

As soon as we got down, took fire from our north, (guns rapidly firing) had to return fire and bound into cover in through the woodlined, 100, 150 meters out.

Him and I have one of those love/hate relationships. See, things are either really good with us, and then there's like (bleep). 10 minute stretches where I just wanna knock your teeth out.

Grab each other by the throat, but you know, at the end of it, we went through it together. It helps you building that relationship.

Something you mentioned yesterday was, you've done a lot of sucky stuff together.

Yeah, it's good, we make a good team.

We dragged him to the woodline, treated him some more. Transitioned to a Skedco, which is a flexible litter that you can use for hoisting operations.

Tell me about why you're here again this year, how did that come to be?

We're here last year, obviously we competed, we were sittin', we knew maybe we're not winning, whatever, we just wanna get it over with.

We were in the auditorium for the ceremony obviously, and they announced the winners, and as as soon as they announced the winners, I looked at Jarrod, and I told him like, "Hey, we're coming back again."

Moved in a little bit farther, maybe 50 meters, and came up to a 30 foot cliff.

We hooked in, we hooked our patient in, and we rappelled with him, and it was awesome.

I really appreciate that part of the medicine, 'cause not all medics really get that training, it's something I thoroughly believe that should be implemented, and I'm glad they tested it.

When we came out to see the lanes, I picked that mannequin up, and I was like,

"wow, that's heavy."

I think it's like 180 pounds or whatever, but yeah, when you got two people working it, it's not that bad. Especially down here in the creek, it goes pretty smooth over the rocks so there's not a lot of friction there.

So what do you guys, I don't want to take too much more time, but when you think about pacing yourselves, and moving through the next thing and the next thing, how do you approach that, do you just feel each other out and say, "Hey, I feel pretty good, "let's keep moving, let's do some planning, "take a knee," or what?

Yeah, that's what we did last year, and that's probably what we'll continue to do this year. We just talk, "hey man, I need a break."

For the next phase, Evans and Sheets had to navigate through the woods for five miles, undetected, so we couldn't go with them.

But we took this opportunity to meet some Mountain Warfare School instructors from the National Guard, Sergeant First Class, Burt Severin, and Staff Sergeant Andreas Bond-Webster.

What does it mean to you to be here competing as a Best Medic?

I love competition, it's what I thrive on, just to kind of prove it to myself that I can still do it, I haven't slacked that much on my skills.

How long have you two been working together as a team?

Honestly, about three weeks.



How's he doing?

Can you talk to us now?

I'm the old guy on the team, and he's the young, pretty face I guess.

Ridicule, that's how we encourage each other.

Old guy, the fat kid, in a good natured way of course.

You've been through some lanes, has there been anything that has been particularly challenging for you guys, that you can think about?

I will say, and I can show my hands to the camera, but the terrain here is incredibly difficult.

The brush, the vegetation is out there to stop you at all costs.

[Lance] Just ask our camera guy. [Camera guy] (bleep)

Why do you think this kind of competition is important for the army medical community?

It kind of puts a spotlight on what we are actually capable of, and kind of all the different facets that we have to our job. A lot of times if you're a line medic, you're more often than not an infantryman first, and then once bullets start flying, and people actually get hurt, that's when you become the medic. So you're an integral part of the group that way, but it's nice to kind of put that in the forefront, and make that something that is seen throughout the army.

You need to have something to strive for, right? And everybody wants to be the best of the best. So this is the perfect venue to throw out there, and it's army-wide which is a huge organization. I think that says it all, something to strive for.

The team spent 36 hours on Sergeant Eldred's gauntlet of lanes before they got their first break. But it wouldn't be long before their next event.

It's zero three thirty on day three of the Army Best Medic Competition. At zero one hundred, the teams started a foot march. Now what they don't know is how long it was gonna be. It's actually 12 miles, a lot of them were talking yesterday like they thought it was going to be 18, but that's the mental part of this that they've just gotta keep pushing through. The other thing is that this is only the beginning of another full day of things that are going to stress them and tax them to their limit.


 I'm hurting.

Team 25.

Where's the finish?

Our team from the 10th Mountain finished in the top seven of the foot march.

Wasn't that bad.

Yeah, it wasn't bad. Our feet held up pretty good, so it's good.

[Lance] Now you get to rest a bit.

I get to rest and eat peach rings.

Uphill the entire way, yeah.

[Lance] There were other people saying that.

Yeah, that was the only really bad part about it, was that it was uphill. Aside from that it wasn't too terrible.

Heard on the road march there was someone who actually dropped out and then said, "Forget it, we're going to get back in."

There might've been something like that. There was a team that felt, that kind of tested the waters, and they realized they were the first team to quit, or would have been if they had done that, and they decided that wasn't for them so they turned it back around.

[Lance] The National Guard eventually cross the line, no worse for the wear.


All good.

How your feet holding up, Bond?

Pretty, pretty torn up.

I bet.

As the sun comes up on the final day of the competition, the teams still have no idea where they stand. But that just means that the title of best medic is still up for grabs.

So today Sheets and Evans will get their weapons, zero them in, compete in a series of shooting lanes, and then a mystery event.

So what is it about a competition like this that draws you and Jarrod to it, I mean, why do you want to compete and spend three days just in the dirt and tired, and working so hard.

What is it about it that you like that so much?

I like being, I'm a really physical person.

I love being physical, I love being outdoors,

I love doing stuff like this.

I'm the kind of guy, you put me in an aide station or a hospital, and I will go nuts.

Maybe I'm not a better medic, but being here I have at least the potential to be a better leader, 'cause I can take the things we've done here and I can go back, and I can teach them to my medics.

So you see that this competition has an inherent value for the medical community as a whole.

Oh yeah, absolutely.

[Lance] What are some of the character traits, what makes up a combat medic?

They're not people that are seeking glory, they're the type of people that are more likely to rush to the sound of gunfire. It does take a special sort of type of person.

I was probably never like this before I joined the army. But I became a medic, and I was assigned my first platoon, B Co one two eight Infantry, and those are your guys, and they depend on you, and just having that, these guys they really need me. Just I guess that sense, it's a pretty indescribable feeling, I don't know. I love, I just enjoy helping people, and the fact that I can change someone's life drastically for the better is, it's awesome.

I do want to ask you, how do you think you did this year?

I think we did a lot better than we did last year. My partner's gonna say we did top five. I'm more of a cautious person, I'd like to say we're in the top 10. Last year we took 11th, this year, I'm thinking we did better than that.

This is something the crew and I talked about a lot, and that is where are these guys gonna end up? At the end of the day, we thought they'd place in the top five.

A compassionate heart, a sound mind, a skilled hand, a deadly shot, and yes, a strong back. Shoot, move, communicate, survive, save and adapt. That's our art, and that's our science.

[Woman] So, our second place team, from the 10th Mountain Division, Sergeant Jarrod Sheets, and Sergeant Matthew Evans. (crowd cheers and applauds)

We found out they took second place, man, we were so excited, and I think they were too. But the thing I take away the most is something that Sergeant Sheets said when he said, "I may not be the best medic, "but what I learned will make me a better leader." and I think that's true of every soldier that competed here.