Seeing a soldier cry is an unsettling experience, no matter the circumstances. I walked into the bathroom at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and saw three young, uniformed women shedding tears over the sinks. These soldiers were in the middle of their 16 weeks of combat medic training.
Judging from their conversation, they had just come from an embassy bombing, a simulated scenario of a bombing, that is. Eight medics rush in to care for 13 "casualties" in low light and loud noise. They had made several mistakes. Some patients didn't make it. Fortunately, here in training, the patients are plastic mannequins.
The U.S. Army is training more combat medics faster and harder than ever before. The days here are grueling: 4:30 a.m. rise and shine for the medics in training; 5:30 a.m. physical training; 7:30 a.m. breakfast; class from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 9:30 p.m. lights out.
These medics have to absorb an incredible amount of information and skill in a short period of time. In just 16 weeks, they are expected to have the same psychomotor skills as a second-year medical resident.
In many ways, the combat medic training program is a testament to the cold fact that war often brings medical advances. Doctors, nurses, medics, combat lifesavers are all forced to innovate under the extreme conditions of battlefield medicine. The good news in this war is that the rate of soldiers being killed on the battlefield is lower and the rate of recovery higher than ever before due to innovative approaches.
In our report linked above, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spends time in combat medic training. We explain how the program, along with new products and groundbreaking research, is helping to save more lives on the battlefield and eventually back at home.