The media often covers certain aspects of troops working overseas, why is military medicine so rarely discussed?
I have spent 18 years in the medical field working in both the military and civilian environment. I was deployed to Iraq in 2006 - 2007. While I was writing my book, A Captain's Journal: Meditations and Medicine from the Iraq War, I found that we rarely talk about military medicine likely because medical details can often be uncomfortable to discuss.
To help others gain some insight to the lives of our fine military medics, I have made a list of the top ten things you should know about military medics.
1. We care for all. We care for Americans, Coalition forces, in-country citizens, and even enemies. The fact that we care for our enemies is a major difference between us and many other groups in this world.
2. “Bustin’ ours to save yours.” This is a proud statement used to let others know we got the backs of our servicemen. We want to instill confidence in our troops so they can do their job with bravery and confidence. We want them to know we are there for them if they should suffer injury while protecting us all.
3. We remember our patients. Each patient brings a unique set of circumstances. Every situation impacts us in special ways. We remember each patient and the leaves their mark on our memory and experience.
4. Military medical personnel are highly trained. From those on the front line embedded with the forces, to those in the field hospitals, to those in stateside facilities: military medical personnel are highly trained and very skilled. Often they are world experts on emergency and trauma medicine.
5. Medics use exceptionally advanced equipment. The military is often at the forefront of new technology and figuring out how to push that tech into the field. State of the art technology is utilized at every step of a serviceman’s medical journey.
6. Forward in the field. Field hospitals are pushed very far forward into the theatre. Troops are never very far from a temporary or permanent facility with highly skilled people and sophisticated equipment.
7. Resilient exterior. The occasionally stiff exterior is so that we can be professional while working in a high stress environment. We do let this exterior down away from the job, but we use it to stay focused while performing our work.
8. We do medical care when not deployed, too. When no overseas deployed with our troops, we are based in the US and elsewhere around the world providing all manner of everyday medical services.
9. We can use humor to deal with war. We use many coping mechanisms to deal with the unpleasant parts of war and its resultant injuries. One of the main coping mechanisms is humor. Sometimes the banter will approach the border of appropriateness, but it is not intended to be harmful. The humor is occasionally dark, but it definitely helps take the edge of some very stressful situations.
10. We are grateful for all our fellow men and women in uniform. All the work our servicemen do, both home and abroad, is exceedingly important. We want to show our appreciation by being the best medical service professional we can for them.
Modern military medical personnel are an integral part of our armed services who often work behind the scenes supporting our fighting men and women. Hopefully, this helps you understand a tiny bit of what makes them tick. Next time you meet a medic, ask them about their work, and thank them.
Former US Air Force medic Eric Charles is the medical director of the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center and a practicing anesthesiologist. A horse enthusiast and hobby farmer, he currently lives in Ironton, Minn. with his wife and two children.