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Combat Paramedic Course students start path towards becoming Army medics

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 28, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Sgt. Bradley Livas is looking forward to the day when he can serve as an Army flight medic.

“Honestly, it sounds like the best job in the Army,” said Livas, a Reservist with the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado. “I don’t think it gets much better than that.”

For Livas, the path towards becoming a flight medic started Jan. 16 when he began his first day of class as a student in the Combat Paramedic Course, or CPC, at the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

He is one of 27 servicemembers who are enrolled in the CPC, a new 30-week pilot course that combines training aspects from two courses, the “F1” phase of the previously contractor-provided Critical Care Flight Paramedic Course and the former Expeditionary Combat Medic course, the advanced combat medic training pilot course that started in 2015.

Maj. Chris Gonzalez, MEDCoE CPC program director, said students in the course are taught and trained in over 150 skills they will need to utilize in various situations.

“This course encompasses requirements to meet the demands of multi domain operations and large scale combat operations,” Gonzalez said. “It incorporates those skills and competencies required for prolonged care into a paramedic curriculum.”

A few weeks into the course, students were learning how to perform ultrasound guided assessments and how to conduct a whole-man examination, or a head-to-toe patient examination.

By learning how to correctly assess a patient, Gonzalez said the students will be able to utilize that skill to appropriately diagnose and treat or refer their patient to a higher level of care.

“Essentially, what this does is provide a foundation for them achieving competency in some of the more common primary complaints that they would see in their Soldier populations,” Gonzalez said. “When they are in a garrison setting, they can either assist their physician or physician assistant by conducting sick call evaluations. If they’re deployed, they can provide a higher standard of medical care to their assigned unit. If it’s within their scope, they can treat or refer to a higher level of care if necessary.”

Livas said as an Army Reservist, he felt his best option for gaining the knowledge and skills he needs to become an Army medic was to devote his time taking the CPC. Starting in the Army Reserve seven years ago as a transportation specialist, Livas has worked his way into the medical field by working as a civilian EMT.

“I am utilizing an Army program to further my education instead of worrying about balancing my civilian job and school,” Livas said.

Livas said he will benefit and learn from the classroom and hands-on training provided in the course.

“I’m more of a doer than a book learner type,” Livas said. “The thing I’m actually looking forward to the most is doing our hospital rotations and learning in the real world what actually gets done. I like learning from those real world examples and it really solidifies what you have learned in the classroom.”

Students in CPC will do four weeks of hospital based training and two weeks of field ambulance internships as part of the course curriculum.

Gonzalez said students in CPC are taught to develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to problem solve through situations they may find themselves in as a medic.

“We emphasize skills in conjunction with competency,” he said. “We want to teach them how to think in whatever medical situation and environment they find themselves in, whether it’s in an ambulance, deployed, aid station or garrison. We want to prepare them for the unknown. Can they adapt their thinking to the circumstances and environment they will be in?”

Gonzalez said CPC is a course with high and demanding standards that are taught by a dedicated group of 19 instructors who uphold and challenge students to meet those standards.

“I have a very invested instructor team who have all worked diligently to ensure that the curriculum is executed to a high standard,” Gonzalez said. “Like any course that demands a high degree of knowledge and skill, it’s going to take time and you’re going to have the distribution of performers. Some people will pick it up right away and then there’s other folks who may struggle with the material, but we have plans for both.”

Gonzalez said the course has measures in place to help students who are doing well or need extra help, including study halls, daily reviews and academic advisors who teach, coach and mentor students.

“Ultimately we want to see students succeed because a successful student can take that to the force and do what they need to for the operational mission,” Gonzalez said.

While Livas has found the course’s curriculum to be fast-paced, he said the course instructors have been very approachable and helpful in helping him learn.

“The instructors are all great,” he said. “They give us the opportunity to come up and talk to them. They really open up their schedules. They are really dedicated to this program.”

After the first CPC class graduates in August, two more CPC classes consisting of between 25 to 30 students each will be held this year.

Gonzales believes the pilot CPC program and the students it will instruct will make Army medicine better.

“We’re excited about this new program,” Gonzalez said. “We think this will make a big difference in the operational force and meet a lot of the austere medical requirements that are envisioned on the future battlefield and operating environment. In that pre-hospital austere environment it will certainly be a force multiplier because it’s going to enable a higher level of care forward both within the flight community and we expect within the ground evacuation community as well.”

Livas said by going through the course he will gain something else in addition to the training he will receive to become a flight paramedic.

“Our education as a paramedic doesn’t stop here,” Livas said. “I love expanding my knowledge on medicine and being able to have part of your job is to expand your knowledge is something that is very exciting for me.”