JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
In August, 275 students attending the Army Combat Medic Specialist Training Program at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston were the first graduates to receive 18 hours of training in Prolonged Casualty Care, which provided the new combat medics with skills to treat complex casualties over a prolonged period of time.
Prolonged Casualty Care training was first introduced to students in the 68 Whiskey Combat Medic Specialist Training Program, or CMSTP, in May 2021, and by the August class, this advanced training program of instruction was validated.
The introduction of Prolonged Casualty Care in the CMSTP is the bridge to the future of combat medic training, as medics will be expected to be able to treat casualties for longer periods of time in future conflicts.
The CMSTP is the 16-week initial entry training program that trains Soldiers to become Army Combat Medic Specialists. Students who attend the program graduate with an emergency medical technician, or EMT, certification and are trained at a tier III qualification in tactical combat casualty care.
Students in the program are assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, with training conducted at the Medical Education and Training Campus, or METC, also at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
Typically, combat medics receive Prolonged Casualty Care training later in their career, as they gain experience and continue in their service. This newly developed bridge program is intended to introduce these skills to initial entry medics as a new CMSTP program of instruction is being developed.
“Prolonged Casualty Care training focuses on management of complex casualties over extended periods of time,” said Col. Johnny Paul, Chief of the CMSTP at MEDCoE and CMSTP Department Chair at METC.
“The potential life-saving skills and methods combat medics are now training on include introducing students in the use of whole blood, operating a walking blood bank, telemedicine, bladder catheterization, ventilator management, supraglottic airway management and prolonged casualty monitoring to include nutrition and nursing care.”
Also, Paul said the addition of Prolonged Casualty Care puts a different focus on the advanced knowledge and skill sets students will need to learn in class, in contrast to previous combat medic courses which focused on the treatment of casualties at the point of injury, with the assumption a patient would be evacuated from the battlefield in a short period of time.
He said adding skillsets of Prolonged Casualty Care training to the CMSTP is a revolution in military medicine based on the emerging doctrine of large-scale combat operations and providing these skills now will give medics the tools needed to fight and win on the battlefield of the future.
Large-scale combat operations take into account that the U.S. military may likely be in future conflicts with an adversary that is a near-peer threat. The challenge to air superiority limiting medical evacuation as well as limited logistical support could result in a large number of casualties that require complex treatment and holding at every echelon of care.
Capt. Michael Bryant, Field Training Exercise branch chief of CMSTP at JBSA-Camp Bullis, said the trainees in the class were able to apply what they learned about Prolonged Casualty Care training in field training exercises at JBSA-Camp Bullis.
The field training exercise includes a 72-hour continuous combat operation where students are expected to fight opposing forces utilizing the tenants of tactical combat casualty care, and treat complex simulated combat casualties at the point of injury, in a forward and main aid station, as well as in a prolonged care environment.
During the field training exercises, the students exceeded the expectations of the class instructors in incorporating the new skills they learned from their Prolonged Casualty Care training.
“They were so excited to be applying what they’ve learned and also building on that concept of combat medicine,” Bryant said. “Basically, we were building off what they have learned over the past 14 weeks and then implementing things like nursing care and advanced procedures. They were starting to see all of it come together.”
Command Sgt. Major Clark Charpentier, MEDCoE command sergeant major, said getting trained in Prolonged Casualty Care at the beginning of their service will provide a benefit to both the combat medic and service members in the field.
“For an introductory 68 Whiskey combat medical specialist, having some sort of exposure to this at the most basic level starts to build the foundation on which all other future training will add to and increase their efficiency,” Charpentier said. “Ultimately any additional skills we can provide to our combat medic trainees is a bridging strategy towards the future combat medic and someone who has increased capabilities and increased knowledge to be able to be more effective on the battlefield.”
Paul said the goal is to redesign, develop and pilot the new combat medic course incorporating the skills of Prolonged Casualty Care in 2023. It is also anticipated that this additional training will result in a higher level EMT certification for graduates, which will directly translate to more advanced medical credentials for combat medics.