JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
You may have never heard of Forward Operating Base Courage, but tucked into a corner of Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis is a unique military training area – the Soldier Medic Training Site.
During 16 weeks of initial training, Soldiers go through a three-tier training program to become an Army combat medic. They complete casualty assessments, learn to apply a tourniquet, initiate IVs, dress battlefield wounds and conduct other complex medical procedures needed in combat. All Soldiers must pass the National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians exam before graduating and earning the title "combat medic."
After 14 weeks of classroom and simulated field training, students are transported from JBSA-Fort Sam Houston to FOB Courage for their final two weeks. Here they combine and apply their training: conducting exercises in mounted and dismounted patrols, treating patients in a mass casualty situation and transporting injured patients to a higher-level facility for care.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Bolton, Department of Combat Medic Training team leader and instructor, is assigned to FOB Courage. Bolton and the other instructors ensure that the training provided is as realistic and as close to combat as possible. On any given day, teams can be responsible for up to 400 Soldiers at the training site.
Bolton, a combat medic himself, comes from a long line of military service members.
"My dad served in the Army as a communications specialist during Vietnam. And – according to my grandmother – every generation in our family has at least two family members who served in the military."
He also has two deployments to Afghanistan; once from 2007-2008 and again from 2009-2010. Because of his past experience, Bolton started a new initiative during the final combat medic field training exercise.
On the final day of training, he coordinates a blood drive with the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center at Brooke Army Medical Center. at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. During the blood drive, combat medic students can volunteer to save the life of an injured service member overseas or to a patient in need at BAMC by donating.
"A medic’s primarily role is to provide emergency medical treatment in combat and to evacuate casualties to the nearest treatment point," Bolton said. "But there are those times that a medic may have to give of themselves to ensure that their casualty goes home."
In 2008, Bolton was assigned as a medic to Company C, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
"I never had an incident where I had to care for a patient for more than 30 minutes," he said. "However, there were many times when my platoon and I were in the dining facility and a soldier came in stating that blood was needed. We dropped our plates and answered the call.
"Each and every one of us can and should be donating blood. It is a simple thing that each of us can contribute and only takes about 45 minutes from our day," Bolton stated. "Here at the Soldier Medic Training Site, our future combat medics learn to save lives. Through their course studies and by donating blood, it shows their commitment to their country and brothers- and sisters-in-arms."
Military blood drives are open to all service members, their family members, Department of Defense federal civilian employees and retirees. Donations from non-DOD civilians who fit the eligibility criteria and have access to an ASBP blood drive are also accepted.
For more information, call the ASBP blood donor recruiter for the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center at 210-295-4655. The center is open from 7:30-11 a.m. weekdays and is located at building 1240 Harney Road, behind the Budge Dental Clinic at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. Walk-in donors are always welcome, but appointments are highly encouraged.