Angels On Call

From the jungles of Southeast Asia to the dunes of Afghanistan, medical evacuation aircraft have always been a sign of hope and rescue, even in the darkest hours of combat. Sergeant Cassandra Kennedy, a 68W with the Massachusetts National Guard who spent a yearlong tour in Iraq last year, reveals the specialized training – split-second actions – it takes to succeed as a flight combat medic.

SGT Cassandra Kennedy, Army National Guard[The medical field is] a different realm of the military. You think of the power, might, and strength of the military, but I get to be on the other side of things and help people – keeping my Soldiers safe and healthy.

In the flight medic program, we train in flight simulators. It’s kind of the shell of an aircraft, and it’s set up with a ‘SimMan’ – a mannequin-like machine that can breathe and bleed. You can monitor its heart rate. We run through simulations of the things we would see overseas and what we would have to deal with in the back of an aircraft. It’s basically like working on a patient in the back of a large SUV.

Once you get back to your unit from training, you focus on flying with the crew and working on your crew coordination. Flight medics are all full members of the flight crew. We have to be qualified to do just as much as a crew chief.

When we’re called in for a medevac (medical evacuation), the seriousness of the injury is pretty substantial. In the back of an aircraft, it’s just you. It’s not like a civilian ambulance where you call in to the hospital and talk to a doctor. We have to know what to do by ourselves.

In Iraq, we had operations ready to go 24 hours. In addition to [U.S. troops], we were transporting civil Soldiers, contractors, intercountry nationals that were working from different bases, and a few Iraqi military.

A medevac request comes in on our radios, and we have to be off the ground within 15 minutes – that’s from getting the call, running to the aircraft, and taking off. While we were deployed, our average time company-wide was seven minutes. You drop whatever you’re doing, and you run.

In the air, we’ll coordinate with the medics on the ground and make sure everybody’s ready. We’ll try to land in a base area, but if we couldn’t do that we would land wherever the injury was. Once we land, we want to get the injured people into the aircraft and get them where they need to be as quickly as possible.

The patient would be ready for us – lined up in the LZ (landing zone). We’ll get a quick report from the medic on the ground, roll the people in the aircraft, and take off. That process is maybe less than five minutes.

In the aircraft, we’ll do our full head-to-toe assessment; put in an IV if they need it, hook them up to the monitor, provide fluids, apply a tourniquet – lifesaving measures. We’ll make sure there are not more injuries that weren’t reported. We’re also talking to the medical treatment facility to let them know what they need to do to get ready.

Once we’re landing outside the hospital, they already have a team waiting to help us get stationed at the aircraft. We’ll wheel the patient into the ER and give the doctors a quick report of what we did and what we gave, and then they take over.


Story and photo courtesy of GX magazine. GX magazine is an official publication of the Army National Guard.


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The Doctor Is In (The National Guard)

Medical Professionals in the Army National Guard

In looking back at On Your Guard in 2012, there were quite a few stories that proved popular or that we feel especially indicative of the rewards of service. So, in the spirit of ‘everything old is new again,’ we will occasionally republish these stories throughout 2013 for the benefit of our new readers.

And so is the nurse, the dentist, the paramedic, and social worker. It may come as a surprise, but the Army National Guard fields a health care team that could rival that of any health system or private practice. That’s because it’s made up of the same dedicated professionals.

The Guard Medical Corps is built to be versatile in its operations so that its members can serve their community, state, and nation while maintaining their own civilian career. This reality is vitally important to the Army National Guard’s dual mission because a member of the medical team could be ensuring the health and vitality of fellow Soldiers on weekend duty; their neighbor during a community emergency; combat troops suffering from a range of injuries; even deployed to other states or overseas. However, when not actively honoring their part-time Guard commitment, they are able to pursue their civilian dreams.

And although many probably would, the Guard would never ask them to make such a commitment without a primo compensation package. So while the Guard gets a medical team that can operate with equal effectiveness everywhere from the field to fixed hospitals, team members enjoy some of the greatest benefits in the military:

Professional growth – Medical professionals in the National Guard are like real-life action heroes. Of course they hold a very important status in our society as healers, but they add to that the mystique of practicing military medicine, which is decidedly different from any other form of practice. The Guard medical team could be asked to simply provide preventive health care to Soldiers in your unit, or to learn entirely new processes and procedures in a tailgate medicine scenario during a local emergency deployment. In between, there is the opportunity to learn by serving alongside other brilliant and dedicated practitioners.

Work on a commission – Many of the professionals in the Guard Medical Corps serve as commissioned officers. And it’s not just the physicians and nurses as one might expect. Dentists (DMD, DDS), specialists like physician assistants and physical therapists, medical professional administrators, social workers (LISW, LCSW) and clinical psychologists, and others all accept an officer’s commission when joining the Guard. And what this provides depends on the stage of your career. If you’re just starting out, you’re going to develop some serious leadership cred. If you’re closer to the end, this will provide you the opportunity to impart your wisdom to the next generation of gifted practitioners.

Bonuses and loans – The debt accrued by many health care practitioners is significant. The Guard can help with that. Medical professionals in the Guard can receive special pay up to $75,000, the Guard’s healthcare student loan repayment programs can generate up to $240,000, and participants in stipend programs can earn additional payments of more than $2,000 a month.

All that and the world’s best barracks, because at the end of your weekend obligation, summer training, or your response to an emergency, you get to go home to your own bed. To learn more about the opportunities available in the Guard Medical Corps, check out’s medical professional pages, then look for openings near you at the National Guard jobs page.

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From Combat Medic to Paramedic and Beyond

National Guard Medic Team in the FieldChristopher Adkins, 29, is much like many other men around his age. He’s married and he works a full-time job. He has a plan for his future and he diligently works toward it.

As a native of Orlando, FL, he and his wife even have an annual pass to Disneyworld.

But it’s what he does at his other job that sets him apart from the rest, “I joined the Army National Guard so I could achieve a balance. I can go to school, stay at home most of the time, and serve my country.”

And serve he does. Not just his Nation and State, but his fellow Soldiers as well, because SGT Christopher Adkins serves as a combat medic.

Combat medics, part of the Health Care Specialist Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), provide on-the-spot emergency care for wounded or injured Soldiers or civilians depending on the mission. And a combat medic only earns their Combat Medic Badge (CMB) when they provide care under fire.

SGT Adkins earned his CMB in 2010 after he deployed to Kuwait and Iraq with the 53rd Infantry Brigade.

“We were convoy escort,” SGT Adkins said. “We provided security for the trucks coming into and out of Iraq.”

This put him on site when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off, injuring several of his fellow Soldiers.

“As cliché as it sounds, the training really does take over. It’s like muscle memory at that point,” SGT Adkins said. “You just get really focused on taking care of the wounded, making sure they get home safe to their families.”

In addition to the CMB, the State thought enough of his actions to nominate him as a Hometown Hero.

“It was quite a surprise. And very cool. My Sergeant called and asked if I wanted it,” SGT Adkins said. “Of course I wanted it. You don’t turn down an honor like that.”

From there, SGT Adkins attended and recently graduated from civilian paramedic school, which the Guard helped him pay for. He believes there are clearly similarities between his role as medic in the Guard and as a civilian paramedic, but also significant differences, mostly in the types of care that he needs to administer.

“As a combat medic, you are going to be dealing with more combat-related injuries (like the results of the IED attack),” SGT Adkins said, “while as a paramedic you are dealing with more medical issues like heart attacks and strokes.”

The next step SGT Adkins will take is applying for the Army’s two-year Physicians Assistant (PA) program. PAs practice medicine under the direction of a medical doctor or surgeon and examine patients, as well as provide diagnoses and treatments for injuries and illnesses.

SGT Adkins gives a great deal of credit for his successes to his Guard experience.

“The Guard put me in the right frame of mind. It gave me a career focus, a good attitude, and helped me pay for paramedic school,” SGT Adkins said. “It helped me develop discipline, good study habits, and drive. It made it possible to set aside distractions and focus on what I had in hand. I’ll stay with the Guard as long as they let me.”

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