JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The graduation of 169 medical officers was a first for the progressively rigorous Army Medicine Captains Career Course at the Army Medical Department Center & School, Health Readiness Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston March 8.
Each branch of the Army conducts a Captains Career Course, or CCC, of varying lengths and intensity focused on providing captains with the tactical, technical and leadership knowledge and skills needed to lead company-sized units and serve on battalion and brigade staffs.
The HRCoE CCC consists of nine weeks of intensive training that includes hands-on experiences in the Military Decision Making Process, Army, Army Health Systems and Force Health Protection doctrine; unit training management; leadership attributes and staff officer functions.
The most recent CCC graduates, that also included four international students from Lebanon, Malawi, Norway and the Ukraine, have the distinction of being a class of many firsts and a marked effort to increase academic and tactical rigor in the Program of Instruction.
During opening remarks, Lt. Col. Caryn Vernon, Chief of the CCC within the Medical Professional Training Brigade, reflected on the cadre's efforts to increase graduation standards and elevate the course to ensure graduates are better equipped to meet the diverse challenges that await them.
Vernon outlined how the students were the first to take a doctrine exam on the first day of class, the first to have closed-book exams, the first to present individual concept of support briefs and the first class in over two decades to conduct a field training exercise as part of the course.
"We did that to make sure that you were better when you leave here, so that the U.S. Army is getting the best Army Medicine officer that we can give them," Vernon said.
Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter, a leader in Army Medicine who has deployed numerous times and commanded at the company, battalion, hospital and brigade level, was chosen to serve as the CCC graduation guest speaker. Harter is currently the Command Surgeon at the U.S. Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
During her remarks, she reflected on how much the Army has shifted from a cold war focus and counter insurgency to today's requirement to be ready for multi-domain operations and full spectrum warfare while sustaining the agility to adapt to and succeed in whatever unique environment the students may find themselves.
"I am certain that all of you are looking forward to moving out with all of the new knowledge, skills, inspirational ideas and insight you now have to lead medical organizations and our Soldiers and civilian teammates into the future," the general said.
Harter also challenged the graduates, most of whom are headed to FORSCOM units, to focus on medical readiness and operational medicine. She said that Soldier lethality is the Army's focus but that "Soldiers fight because they know a medic and Army Medicine will be there on the battlefield with them."
Lastly, Harter asked the students to make a conscious effort to think about how they can help sustain a ready force every day and train as they fight wherever they find themselves in the future.
"Stick with the fundamentals of maintenance and training," Harter said. "Be students of combat medicine, wartime surgery, evacuation, logistics and the joint theater trauma system. Operational medicine focus is the future."
Capt. Amanda O'Leary Kelly was the course distinguished honor graduate, earning the highest grade point average and ranked number one by both her small group leader and her peers. This honor is reserved for the best of the best in the course. Kelly, who is currently commander of the Headquarters and Headquarter Detachment, Public Health Command-Europe at Landstuhl, Germany, said that while she found the course challenging, she feels better prepared as she heads back to her company command.
Kelly said a good example was the doctrine exam that students took on the first day of training. She had always prided herself on her doctrinal knowledge, but the exam humbled her and highlighted knowledge gaps that had grown from high operational tempo in both MTOE and TDA units.
"Being in the course helped me center myself and immerse myself in an institutional learning domain," Kelly said. "I will return to my unit as a stronger leader, bringing the importance of doctrine back with me."
In addition to the areas of increased academic rigor, Vernon believes that adding the FTX to the graduation criteria greatly enhanced training.
"Being expected to perform at a high level in a field environment pushes the officers past their comfort area and exposes them to the austerity of war," Vernon said.
Vernon confirmed that the FTX is now part of the CCC's Program of Instruction for the foreseeable future.
"Going to the field gets our officers back into an Operational Medicine mindset; it reminds them that Army Medicine's mission is to support the Operational Army," she said.
The CCC is one of 192 programs of instruction available through the AMEDDC&S HRCoE. HRCoE CCC students, including active duty, reserve component and international students, account for over 1,500 of the 35,000 to 40,000 estimated students throughput annually.
The next Army Medical CCC course is currently in session and is set for graduation May 15.