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NEWS | Jan. 16, 2020

MEDCoE starts new operationally focused paramedic pilot course

By Tish Williamson U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston has merged training aspects of advanced combat medic and flight paramedic training courses to create a 30-week pilot course that began Jan. 16. 

The MEDCoE remains focused on training a more combat focused flight paramedic while continuing to plan for worst case scenarios that estimate a degraded flight evacuation capability in future large scale combat operations against peer and near-peer threats.

The 30 week-pilot program, called the Combat Paramedic Course, or CPC, is part of the MEDCoE’s force generation strategy to produce operationally focused paramedics with a goal of zero preventable deaths on the battlefield. These combat paramedics will meet capability requirements of a Multi-Domain Operational Environment that is increasingly complex, lethal and contested in all domains.

Lt. Col. Kathleen Samsey is medical director of the Critical Care Flight Paramedic, or CCFP, Course and the former Expeditionary Combat Medic, or ECM, pilot course. She is responsible to generate flight paramedics as part of a Congressional mandate, NDAA 2013. 

Samsey detailed how the CPC pilot program replaces the “F1” phase of the previously contractor-provided CCFP course and ECM, the advanced combat medic training pilot that was initiated in 2015.

“The new Combat Paramedic Course pilot integrates lessons learned from CCFP and ECM to ensure we are postured to support the existing paramedic requirement, that will ultimately lead to future force generation of more advanced 68W combat medics as the course is opened up to ground-based medics,” Samsey said. “We are ultimately eliminating inefficiencies in these legacy courses while merging best practices of each course; yielding more capable medical professionals.”

The redesigned F1 course is 30 weeks long and conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston through the MEDCoE.  Successful graduates of the course will earn a Nationally Registered Paramedic, or NRP, certificate, be only nine credit hours short of an associate's degree, and will be able to perform a broader spectrum of combat medicine.


The first Combat Paramedic Course began Jan. 16. Graduates of the CPC that go on to serve as flight paramedics, will attend follow-on training consisting of an eight week “F2” phase: Critical Care Course at the MEDCoE, as well as a four week “F3” phase: Army Medical Department Aircrew Member Training Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama.


“These NRP flight medics or ground-based combat paramedics will be able to work at a paramedic level in medical treatment facilities, military and civilian, completing more advanced level sustainment training than what is currently allowed for those without a NRP certification,” Samsey said. 


MEDCoE leadership and subject matter experts designed the Combat Paramedic Course pilot curriculum to be operationally focused as opposed to civilian paramedic certification courses that are generally “golden-hour”, pre-hospital focused.

This change, as with the MEDCoE’s on-going reorganization efforts, are to ensure the Army can fight and win our nation’s wars – now and in the future.

The new course is not only operationally focused, to include prolonged care to yield a better prepared paramedic, but the desired end state of a fully funded CPC in the future will be that both the air and ground medics get the same training so that they are more effectively able to communicate to each other, to the benefit of their wounded soldier. 

MEDCoE Command Sgt. Maj. William “Buck” O’Neal is a trained flight paramedic who also served three combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division as a ground medic.  He believes the transition to the CPC and other proposed 68W training initiatives will help modernize the force. 

“In an aerial denial environment anticipated in Large Scale Combat Operations, a critically injured patient may need to be kept on the battlefield for much longer than the desired “golden hour” due to a degraded MEDEVAC capability,” O’Neal said. 

He described a synergy in core critical care curriculum that MEDCoE infused into the CPC that will offer flight paramedics and combat medics a shared base of understanding of treatment required to sustain a patient in a prolonged care scenario.

“When a patient has been treated in a prolonged field care environment and is handed off to the flight paramedic, who now understands prolonged care concepts in this new Combat Paramedic Course,” O’Neal explained. “They will be able to better support the patient later in the care spectrum where complications of trauma may have progressed longer than has been typically seen on modern battlefields.”

The concept of increasing the training and skills needed for prolonged care has been in practice at MEDCoE in many advanced combat medic courses, and was a focus of the ECM pilot course according to Maj. Chris Gonzalez, program director of the CPC pilot and former program director for the ECM pilot course.  

The 30-week CPC pilot is four weeks longer than the ECM pilot course, which had some measure of difficulty enticing both students and their relinquishing commands to commit to a PCS move associated with the full 26-week course. 

“I am confident that we won’t have an issue recruiting students for this new course since, unlike the ECM pilot, the CPC yields both college credit and a certification for its graduates,” Gonzalez said. “The course is a critical first step in enhancing the capability of the 68W Military Occupational Specialty and recognizing the significance of advanced enlisted medical providers to the future of Army Medicine.”   

The Combat Paramedic Course pilot program is currently open for registration through the Army Training Requirements and Resources System, or ATTRS, Course “300-F1 Combat Paramedic Course, Pilot”.  For more information about MEDCoE courses visit