More advanced training for combat medics help save more military lives

Decade to decade, war to war, combat medics have been on the frontlines, treating troops on the brink of death.

As battle tactics evolve, so does battle medicine.

Advanced medic training is helping soldiers survive gruesome injuries that may have killed them in the past.

For the combat medics in week five of training, it is their first battlefield simulation.

Sgt. Michael Mazzoni, a combat medic instructor, says, "The training is as real as we can make it with the time that we have."

Mazzoni knows first hand how real things can get in combat. He was a medic in Iraq back in 2009. That is when an explosion hit his foot patrol just south of Baghdad.

"I could feel the shrapnel burning."

It lodged in his abdomen, so he had to direct the troops he was there to treat to treat him.

According to the Army, the survival rate of wounded warriors during World War II was under 70%. It went up to 76.5% during Vietnam. Now, service members hurt in Iraq and Afghanistan have a survival rate of more than 90%.

The training is constantly changing. For instance, Mazzoni says when the raid of Baghdad began in 2003, medics were focused on dealing with chemical and nuclear contamination. Now, TC-3, or tactical combat casualty care, has taken over.

Medics are trained to focus on traumatic injuries caused by IED's, improvised explosive devices, or RPG's, rocket propelled grenades.

Sergeant William Martinez was hit by an RPG in Afghanistan. Despite the shrapnel that pierced his skull, the gunner fired back, taking out several insurgents. Then, he was shot in the leg, but something gave him hope.

Sgt. Martinez says, "I saw the medic. He was relaxed, calm. He gave me the confidence that I was going to make it out of there alive."

That 19-year-old medic patched up Martinez, and he started fighting again. The Chilean native received the Bronze Star with valor and got a Purple Heart and his U.S. citizenship on the same day.

Now, he is an American citizen who thanks a teenager for saving his life.

Both Martinez and Mazzoni say they have been cleared to head back to the battlefield at some point.

Right now, there are more than 20,000 combat medics on active duty, 11,500 in the National Guard, and close to 10,000 in the Reserves.


BACKGROUND: Napoleon's Army was the first to assign people to help the wounded. They were called the litter-bearers, made up mostly of inept and expendable soldiers. The American Colonel Army lead by George Washington, also had litter-bearers during the Revolutionary War.
In 1862, due to the unexpected size of casualty lists during the battle of Manassas where it took one week to remove the wounded from the battlefield, Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Head of Medical Services of the Army of the Potomac, revamped the Army Medical Corps. His contribution included staffing and training men to operate horse teams and wagons to pick up wounded soldiers from the field and to bring them back to field dressing stations for initial treatment. This was our nation's first Ambulance Corps.

SURVIVING THE WAR: The survival rate for U.S. service members wounded in Iraq has reached 90 percent, higher than in any previous war, and 10 points higher than in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Army company typically includes four to five combat medics. In addition, forward surgical teams, 20-person units that include three surgeons and an orthopedic surgeon are being assigned at the battalion or brigade level. (

TRAINING: The 16-week course includes a 12-day field training exercise. More than 18,300-strong, combat medics make up the second-largest military occupational specialty in the Army, behind the infantry. And the demand for combat medics on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan remains high. About 60 to 70 percent of students will deploy with
in six months of graduation. (

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