Army medics are extremely valuable. Combat medics have improved the survival rate of soldiers to 90% compared to less than 70% in World War II with increased training, better medical equipment, and more armor than in previous years. However, many medics still get shot down, leaving platoons of men vulnerable to hemorrhaging and death from blood loss, the number one cause of battlefield deaths. Do medics need more armor and safety?
What is a Combat Medic?
Combat medics come in all shapes and sizes. Every branch of the military between navy, army, air force, coast guard, and marines have their own training requirements for their medical personnel. Army medics and civilian EMS are not so different. The main difference is army medics undergo more training, especially with more combat-specific wounds.
Combat medics are able to inoculate, take patient histories, give CPR, bandage wounds, and stabilize broken bones. Medics also focus on dressing and sterilizing wounds, prepping wounded soldiers for triage and evacuation, administering IVs, and taking vital signs. When they come home, medics often go back to school to further their medical careers; the time spent in service looks good on a resume.
The protection of army medics has vastly improved over the years as all body armor has. However, the death rate of deaths is still too high. On the Vietnam Memorial wall, over 2,000 medic and navy corpsmen names are listed. From the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to 2009, 220 medical personnel were lost.
A combat medic in the Army carries an M4 rifle and M9 pistol, a MOLLE vest with full combat load of 210 rounds, the Improved Outer Tactical Vest or the IOTV body armor, the Army combat uniform and the Advanced Combat Helmet. Major upgrades were made to the IOTV to improve weight, mobility, and protection though it is still lacking. It is designed to prevent penetration of bullets, knives, and explosion fragments to vital areas of the torso. The vest also has attachments to protect groin, neck, and biceps. However, while the back padding is designed to lessen the impact of fragments from explosions, it does not protect well against bullets or knives. The vest is also heavy, almost to the point of being a liability in combat. With 30 to 35 pounds to carry around, a medic with all of their equipment could be hampered from moving quickly to help soldiers or moving to safety.
Upgrading Their Armor
Some of the best ways to improve upon this armor would be to create lighter armor using different materials. New prototypes of body armor using laser cut fabrics and ceramic plates could be the answer. Medic armor should also be extremely adaptable so that combat medics will have easy access to the materials they need. The army and commercial companies work to produce belts and pouches that easily clip to the existing body armor so that medics take only what they need. Helmet improvements are also being made to increase protection, reduce weight, and add jaw protection, eye protection, and better night vision.
Army medics need armor to help keep them safe just like other military members. The Army continues making advancements such as a tourniquet belt that is standard to every soldier’s’ pack and can be inflated by air. Technologies such as these can help reduce casualties and give more time for the medic to address other soldier’s wounds. It also gives more ability to focus on pulling wounded soldiers to safety and evacuating them to a clinic. More armor and safety technology means saving more combat medics, helping save their lives so they can save more lives.