News: 68W MOS story: Health care specialist 'medic'
Story by Maj. Will Cox
OGLETHORPE ARMORY, Ga. – Sgt. 1st. Class Robert Waters joined the Army in 1997 and served four years before deciding to get out of full time military service. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Waters joined the Georgia Army National Guard to become a medic with the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team where he served for the next decade deploying once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
“I became a medic because I wanted to make a difference,” said Waters. “I watched first-hand as we transitioned from a peace-time Army to a nation at war. There is nothing more honorable than the willingness of the infantryman running toward the sound of guns, risking his life for his buddy. The medic does this too with a rifle in hand - but when the tactical situation dictates he puts down that rifle and reaches for his aid bag to work his other job.”
The U.S. Army’s 68W health care specialist “medic” overview reports the health care specialist is primarily responsible for providing emergency medical treatment, limited primary care and health protection and evacuation from a point of injury or illness. Job training for a health care specialist requires 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training and 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training, including practice in-patient care.
While with the 48th IBCT, Waters was deployed to Yusafiyah, Iraq, known to some Soldiers as the “triangle of death,” where he earned his Combat Medic Badge as one of four medics that treated more than 300 wounded Americans and Iraqis. His unit survived multiple mortar attacks, improved explosive attacks and small-arms ambushes, where many of his fellow Soldiers were wounded or killed.
“The importance of competency became seared in my conscious as I fulfilled my role as a medic,” said Waters. “If a cook has a bad day, his troops may get sick. If an admin clerk has a bad day, his Soldiers may have pay issues. But if a medic has a bad day, people die and that is a very heavy dose of reality.”
Every two years medics need to renew their civilian accreditation on the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. The medic refresher course, hosted by the Georgia Medical Command, provides the training medics need to stay current and qualified to perform their job.
“This training is important because our adversaries didn’t get the memo that the war is over. So our medics need to be ready to provide care when and where it is needed,” said Waters. “The Boston Marathon is a great example of why medical training needs to be maintained not only at the medic level but also through combat life saver training at the individual level in a unit.”
Waters now is a medical platoon sergeant and medical trainer with the Georgia Medical Command, and is the lead instructor for the medic refresher course which begins with individual skill training and ends with a tactical scenario based exercise where an IED has gone off and the assigned medic will need to manage the care of the multiple casualties.
Becoming a medic also shaped his civilian career ambitions. Waters went back to school to become an emergency medical technician – intermediate, and then later became a nurse. He currently is working toward a degree as a physician’s assistant.
“A medic is the perfect utility player, equally at ease in a hospital, in a combat arms line company or as part of civil affairs teams,” said Waters. “It’s an incredibly rewarding way to serve. Yes, I wanted the challenges that come with emergency medicine, but how awesome is it that a medic’s job is to take care of his friends and buddies.”