The US Army National Guard has reported that its medics are among those taking part in a pilot programme designed to revamp the training that flight medics throughout the US Army will receive. The pilot programme course, which is being taught at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, will provide flight medics with additional paramedic and critical-care training and certifications.
Master Sgt Kym Ricketts, chief medical non-commissioned officer with the US Army National Guard, explained: “A paramedic provides a higher level of care. It’s advanced, pre-hospital medical care.”
Today, training for a flight medic is not much different than training for a combat medic, said the National Guard, but because flight medics operate under different conditions from combat medics, Army leadership has recognised the need for additional training requirements. Ricketts added: “The medics need additional training as flight medics, as they do a higher standard of care and in a different environment than a line medic on the ground.”
The programme is designed to focus on training soldiers on additional skills needed as a flight medic. The push for making changes to flight medic requirements came from a number of elements, including a study carried out on a California Army National Guard medical evacuation unit that deployed to Afghanistan with fully fledged paramedics in flight medic positions. Ricketts commented: “[The study found that with] having flight paramedics in the back of an aircraft there was a 66-per-cent higher survivability rate than with a straight [combat medic] that wasn't paramedic trained.”
Additionally, proposed changes to the flight medic requirements also mean that graduates of the programme gain the same national US certifications as civilian paramedics, providing additional benefits including a greater flexibility for integrating with local, state and other agencies in a disaster situation. Ricketts said: “A citizen-soldier can do their wartime mission as well as their peacetime mission of taking care of their community.” But the important part, she said, is simply providing the best care possible: “The benefit is the best battlefield medicine and care that a Soldier can get. With the forward surgical teams that are out there, casualties are actually having surgical intervention on the ground at the point of injury. Combined with these medics that are able to have this training ... the [casualty] will be getting the best standard of care.”
The pilot programme wraps up later in the year and will then go through a review process. Ricketts remains positive about the results of the programme: “These medics are going to affect so many people. Not just American forces, but coalition forces as well, and that’s amazing.”
Image: Army Sgt Cliff Aughe, a flight medic with C Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, New Mexico Army National Guard, watches over a soldier from the Afghan National Army during an evacuation mission in Afghanistan, 27 March
Sgt Daniel Schroeder / US Army