JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-CAMP BULLIS, Texas —
Endurance will be tested -- both mentally and physically. Soldier knowledge and medical knowledge will be the proving ground for nearly 16 teams of Soldiers competing in this year's Army Best Medic Competition at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis Sept. 16-20.
Senior Army Medicine leaders say teams will be challenged in ways they haven't been in previous competitions -- and the Soldiers had better be ready to not only be physically exhausted at the end of the week, but mentally exhausted as well. This year's competition will be very different from years past.
"We've made it more realistic," said Master Sgt. Genora Jenkins, senior operations sergeant, G-3/5/7, Army Medical Department Center & School. "This competition will allow Soldiers to test their capabilities and test what they may or may not know. It will allow for self-reflection."
That kind of self-reflection and feedback is one of the key elements Best Medic organizers are looking for to enhance the spirit of the competition, but also to take back to the overall medical force for training.
"All the competitors can come back after going through this competition and they're exposed to these new challenges," Jenkins said. "They can learn from this and take the experience back to their commands by sharing their feedback. And that feedback helps everyone across the board, giving them the tools to improve."
In addition to the fact that the competition's setup and logistics are different, is the fact that the whole competition fits into the Army's shift of focus on winning battles in a multi-domain battlefield. This type of feedback is exactly what is needed to ensure Army Medicine continues in its efforts toward an expeditionary medical force that can rapidly deploy when the Nation calls.
"The results of this competition will identify where we have gaps throughout the spectrum," said Sgt. Maj. Litt Moore, Chief Medical NCO, Capability Development and Integration Directorate, Army Medical Department Center & School. "This will be an opportunity to get a better level on how we as an organization are preparing for the future."
In years past, the competition has been segmented, with each task standing on its own with its own theme. This year's competition is scenario-based resulting in a more streamlined concept.
"In the past, you had to go through the motions of medical application," said Command Sgt. Maj. Buck O'Neal, Army Medical Department Center & School command sergeant major. "This year's competition will test your knowledge in an actionable practice of medicine with immediate and recurring feedback."
What that exactly means is still under wraps. Leading up to the Army Best Medic Competition, the two-Soldier teams have competed at their local units and regions, with the best teams advancing to the finals in Texas. While the Soldiers have gone through scenarios at their local level, competitors are left in the dark about exactly what they can expect from this final test to ensure everyone is on an equal playing field when they arrive.
O'Neal said that while this is an individual competition, the real results are the bonds forged between competitors, as well as establishing esprit de corps.
"When you bring in the best the Army has to offer, and you look across at each other and you know you're competing against the best, there's a level of respect and there's a level of camaraderie that's forever built," O'Neal said. "When you see that individual five, 10 years down the road, that's a common bond between you forever and an appreciation for what you've shared through this competition."
Nearly 15,000 combat medics (68Ws) are enlisted in the U.S. Army -- the second largest military occupational specialty in the Army behind infantry. Competitors are not required to be 68W; anyone who has earned the Enlisted Field Medical Badge or the Combat Medical Badge can compete in Best Medic competition. After narrowing the field at the local and regional levels, we will know exactly who the very best medic is in the entire U.S. Army Sept. 20.
"Everyone will compete as a winner," O'Neal said. "But only one team will earn the title Best Medic."