ADVANCED TRAINING What a medic really has to do.
My friend, Tommy Lamm, and I reported for medic training at Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio on January 2, 1967 after two weeks at home for Christmas. Tommy and I bunked next to each other. Ft Sam is in the city limits of San Antonio and includes the huge Brooke Army Hospital Complex. All Army medical personnel train at Ft Sam. Doctors, nurses, medical specialists, (X-Ray tech, Lab tech, etc) and medics all train at this facility. It was very much different from Ft Polk.
Medic training is about half hospital orderly training and about half combat medic training. We learned to give shots and set up IVs by practicing on each other. We learned how to properly insert catheters. All the time we were learning catheter procedures I was concerned about the practice part of the training. I was relieved to find out we didn’t practice inserting catheters on each other. We learned how to administer medication, properly make beds, and yes, change bed pans.
Combat medic training was focused on specific injuries. We learned how to treat wounds to the head, body, and extremities using field medic equipment. We learned how to stop bleeding, how to keep an airway open, and prevent shock. All through the combat training it was emphasized that the life expectancy of a medic in a fire fight was six seconds. The overall training experience was interesting and satisfying. I was happy that I was not assigned to the infantry and the military life wasn’t that bad.
Classes were difficult and demanding but I enjoyed it. The hazing and mental games were pretty much non-existent. The discussions among the troops were always about Vietnam. Medic training lasted only eight weeks. As the training neared completion my concern and the concern of every medic to be was whether or not we would get orders for Nam. When the assignments were posted my stress was eased somewhat to find out I was headed to Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri. Tommy’s orders were for somewhere else but not Nam. We had spent six months with the same assignments.
I flew from San Antonio to Dallas on a Braniff Airlines 707 jet. My first time on a jet and Braniff no less. Braniff stewardesses wore the latest style mini-skirt uniforms and were advertised as the prettiest in the business. I was doing O.K., that is, until I reached Dallas. I changed planes to one of those two prop DC-3s. We stopped in Ft Smith, Fayetteville, Joplin, Little Rock, and finally Ft Leonard Wood. Every stop was a rollercoaster ride of a landing.
It was the middle of March and the temperatures were quite cool in Missouri. All of the buildings at Ft Leonard Wood were heated by coal-burning furnaces. I still remember the smell of the burning coal and the haze over the post from the smoke. I thought I had flown through a time warp into the past. But I wasn’t in Vietnam….yet.
Continue to Chapter 4