Life of a combat medic
Story by Sgt. Gene Arnold
Suddenly, two casualties arrive at the aid station, one unresponsive and the other under duress, what would you do?
In the basic combat medic course, soldiers are taught that with their newfound skills they can ultimately change the course of someone’s life. In either relaxed or strenuous settings, that decision can weigh heavily.. After making life saving interventions, both casualties make it to live another day. That’s the life of a combat medic.
“The best thing I pull out of doing my job on a daily basis is the fact that I’m helping people,” said Kriner. “I just really enjoy going the extra mile for people. And when you go home at night, you have that feeling of ‘You actually did something’, ‘You actually saved someone’s life or you helped someone get home to his or her family.’ “
Spc. Ryan Kriner, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, shares the pros and cons of being an medic in an deployed environment.
Kriner is one of the rare medics that received the opportunity to conduct both aid station and patrol duties while in Afghanistan. Many medics never receive the chance to serve in both capacities at the same time.
“It makes me proud to be selected to do so, and that my leadership has chosen me to be the medic to experience the wide realm that is my job.”
“Not all the medics in the aid station get to do that. As a 68W (combat medic), you’re either out on the line or in the aid station, you usually don’t get to do both.”
Enlisting in the Army just short of two years ago, he has earned the respect and confidence of his superiors with his abilities and willingness to be more than just a medic. The table side and on-foot actions of this soldier has more than boosted him ahead of his peers. He currently serves in the aid station and as the battalion commander’s medic on missions.
“Definitely being in a deployed setting has furthered me into the realm of what a 68W really is.”
“I’m working the majority of the time and I’m also the medic for our higher headquarters,” he said. “So when our officers go out like the battalion commander, I’m the medic that goes along with him out on missions.”
“It definitely makes me feel great; it definitely furthers my education and makes me want to learn new techniques and interventions that I can use to save peoples lives. I’m definitely learning more especially about the tactical side as well,” said Kriner.
At any given time, a combat medic on patrol is responsible for the safety and care of 20 to 30 infantrymen in an element. If things go awry and casualties are taken, his responsible for every person, whether it’s five or six patients.
“My advice to new 68Ws is to prepare for that. You’re responsible for the decision that can ultimately affect someone’s life,” he added.
Yes, soldiers are trained to be combat life saver (CLS) certified; however, as a medic he is just as important as the infantryman. This being his first deployment in this field, Kriner has had issues to overcome.
“Initially, the things I was seeing was affecting me. I could go back to my room and wouldn’t be able to sleep because I’d be constantly thinking about the patient or what their families were going through back home.”
“When things bother me, I have great leadership in the aid station that the team and I are able to fall back on.”
“Anything traumatic happens in the aid station, we’ll sit down as a group and talk about things. We talk about how it may affect the patient or us. Our non-commissioned officers would share stories of their past with us.”
“It really helps us, the ones who are deployed for the first time, to know that other people have gone through the same situations and we can relate,” Kriner said.
Kriner added that if he has any questions or is upset about anything, he can talk to his leadership and they are very open and honest with their responses.
When asked why he chose to be a combat medic, Spc. Kriner gave his reasons.
“I want to be a registered nurse to help provide a better life for my wife and two-year-old son. Being a combat medic can help further in education, I’m gathering all the prerequisites to drop my packet in the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program as soon as I get back to Fort Riley.”
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