Combat Medic Training: What It Takes To Be an Army Lifesaver

Updated February 27, 2023

An illustration of a combat medic in a camouflage uniform.

Combat medics make a positive impact on the world by serving their country and saving lives. On the path to becoming a combat medic, you will learn about emergency medical care and being a first responder. The skills you gain can help you find lifelong work in the health care field.

In this article, we discuss what a combat medic does and how you can become one.

What is a combat medic?

A combat medic is a soldier who primarily treats the injuries of soldiers in their unit or station. Depending on the combat medic's specialization, they may stabilize wounded soldiers in the field or provide long-term care in a facility alongside other medics. A combat medic who is deployed with their unit may also carry equipment to support their current mission.

A combat medic can pursue further education to specialize in different areas, such as dentistry or orthopedics. They also instruct other soldiers in emergency training courses. The scope of a combat medic's responsibilities depends on where they work. For example, a combat medic in an aid station may see a wider range of injuries and learn more about long-term care.

Related: All About the Branches of the Army: Descriptions and Roles

How do you become a combat medic?

To become a combat medic, you will need to meet the education and testing requirements, join the military and complete training. Here is a detailed breakdown of the steps it takes to become a combat medic:

1. Complete the necessary education

A combat medic must have a high school diploma, although a GED may be sufficient. You can discuss this with a recruiter to see if you are eligible.

Consider focusing on science and math courses in school to help you prepare for this role. If you have previous education or experience in the medical field, you may have a higher chance of being selected as a combat medic.

2. Apply to the U.S. Army

Before applying to become a combat medic, you will need to join the U.S. Army or another branch of the military in which you would like to serve. Any gender is eligible for a position as a combat medic, but you will need to be between the ages of 17 and 34 to join the U.S. Army. Any candidate under 18 will need parental consent.

You must be a U.S. citizen or have a green card to be eligible to join the military, although the armed forces do sometimes grant exceptions. A criminal history may also affect your ability to join. A recruiter can answer your questions about whether your specific circumstances will affect your eligibility.

To apply to join the U.S. Army, connect with a recruiter and provide your personal information and identifying documents, such as your driver's license, Social Security card and high school diploma. The recruiter will help you complete all the paperwork and schedule the testing you will need to complete as part of your application.

3. Undergo testing for entry into the U.S. Army

Once you have completed the requisite paperwork and interview with the recruiter, you will need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. The ASVAB is a series of questions designed to test your understanding of various subjects, such as math, science, electronics and reading. The military uses this test to determine which position you are most suited for.

To become a combat medic, you will need a score of 101 or higher on the skilled technical portion of the ASVAB and 107 or higher on the general technical portion. Consider devoting some time to studying before signing up for the ASVAB so you're prepared on exam day.

You will also need to pass a physical examination and show that you are physically fit enough to serve in the military. This examination takes place at a military entrance processing station where you will need to go through a full physical examination and routine tests, such as hearing, eye and blood tests, and provide your medical history. You may also take the ASVAB here if you have not already taken it.

Related: How To Prepare for the ASVAB Test

4. Complete U.S. Army basic and combat medic training

Once the U.S. Army accepts you as a combat medic, known as a 68W, you will complete two rounds of training. First, you will go through basic combat training, which lasts 10 weeks and ensures you are physically and mentally prepared to serve in the Army.

Next, you will complete advanced individual training (AIT). AIT can last 16-68 weeks, depending on your specialization and the areas of medicine that you study. During AIT, you will learn many of the hands-on skills you need to succeed as a combat medic, such as basic first aid, CPR, trauma medicine and wound care. Once you have completed AIT, you will receive your placement. Though the U.S. Army tries to account for your preferences, they will place you where you are most needed.

Related: What To Expect in U.S. Army Basic Training

5. Pursue education

Even after working as a combat medic, you will continue training. If you want to specialize in an area of medicine, you may choose to further your education or pursue a more specialized role, such as special operations combat medic. The U.S. Army offers several specializations, depending on where you serve and which area of medicine interests you, such as ophthalmology, dermatology or immunology.

Some branches of the armed forces require that you maintain civilian certifications, so be sure to keep up with required continuing education. Because medicine is a constantly evolving field, combat medics will benefit from continuous learning to keep their skills up to date.

You may also pursue education through the interservice physician assistant program (IPAP). IPAP trains and educates combat medics to become physician assistants, which can be beneficial if you choose to transition from the Army to a civilian role. You will need to complete at least 60 hours of college coursework with a focus on science, along with the scholastic aptitude test (SAT) and basic life support (BLS) certification before applying for the IPAP. Once you complete the IPAP, however, you will have the equivalent of a master's degree and a commission of first lieutenant.


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