AFGHANISTAN - A combat medic’s job is to provide care for their patients no matter what branch of service they belong to.
Whether working in a hospital or traveling with a convoy, the combat medic is responsible for helping the warfighter to stay in the fight. For Senior Airman Anthony Montejo, a medic attached to the 10th Sustainment Brigade, the opportunity to live, travel and treat soldiers is a rare one.
“This is my first tour as a combat medic, which is cool because I get to experience what it feels like to be a Army soldier,” Montejo said. “Most Air Force medics won’t get to experience this so I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
The Houston, Texas, native has served in the Air Force medical corps for six years and went from treating pilots to caring for soldiers during his current tour in southern Afghanistan.
“I’m here to support these guys in whatever way I can so that they can be able to do their job, so it’s like the Army says, ‘One team, One fight” right,” Montejo said.
“I don’t care if I have to guard their gear or clear a .50-cal machine gun, I’m here as a part of a team. It’s also cool to get in the huddle and hooah blast with the guys too.”
Under the Joint Expeditionary Tasking Program, an Air Force medic has to complete combat skills training or combat airmen skills training to deploy in support of an Army medical mission.
After completing their training, airmen will be attached to an Army medical brigade or unit, taking on the traditional role of a combat medic.
For soldiers in the field, this still provides an individual who has more experience than soldiers who’ve completed a combat life savers course.
“You never know when medical evacuation support is going to show up so to me I don’t care what uniform the medic wears as long as they get the job done,” said
Spc. Andrew Freeman, a truck driver with the 1157th Transportation Company. “Everybody on a convoy may be CLS qualified, but this is his profession.”
Freeman said he has gone out with Montejo on a convoy before and one thing that has impressed him is how personal the medic can be with soldiers.
“He’s not shy and not afraid to get to know people,” Freeman said. “You know how some medics will shut up in the back of a vehicle, that’s not Montejo. He doesn’t just tag along for the ride.”
Montejo said he gets to know soldiers better because inquiring about past injuries allows him have medication readily available if any problems arise.
“A lot of the soldiers I deal with usually have sleep issues, headaches and motion sickness so I want to always have medication on hand,” Montejo said.
“The more comfortable the soldiers are, the less mistakes we’ll have out on the road. I don’t want my truck falling off a cliff.”
One can never predict a convoy’s time frame, which can take any where from three to twenty hours to complete.
Scanning the area for enemy activity for long periods of time can take a toll on a soldiers health out in the field.
“We’re out on the road for 16 hours a day so of course we’re going to have problems with our bodies,” Freeman said. “Montejo‘s here to help us get through the mission and no matter how big the problem is he’s not afraid to get out there to help us.”
Montejo said his faith in God and speaking to his wife on Skype helps him stay focused because he’s doing something few airmen medics get to do.
“Being away from my wife is hard so to do a job that most airmen wouldn’t be accustomed to doing, on top of that, demands me being more focused,” Montejo said. “Even though I know I have nothing to prove to anybody I just feel like I want to show the soldiers that the Air Force aren’t just paper pushers.”
For Montejo being a combat medic is more than just knowing what the appropriate dosage is needed to treat his patients. It’s the chance to live, travel and talk with soldiers that helps him to be the best combat medic he can be.