FORT DRUM The posts medics were put to the test Friday to determine who would represent the 10th Mountain Division at the Armys national Best Medic Competition.
At a portion of the competition open to the media, soldiers could be seen navigating a grueling obstacle course, tending to and carrying dummy soldiers along with assembling and operating weaponry.
Adding to their challenge were several loudspeakers blaring sounds of explosions and gunfire. A passing helicopter occasionally dipped its rotors as it went by the course, sending hefty blasts of wind at soldiers crossing the areas.
Its never a nice, casual scene when you go out to treat a casualty, said Lt. Col. Christian J. Meko, the divisions surgeon.
The 15 competitors, representing the 10th Mountain Divisions three combat brigades on post and one at Fort Polk, La., each had either an Expert Field Medical Badge or a Combat Medical Badge. The competitors were picked from a pool of about 800 within the division.
These are the best of the best, said Capt. Martin L. Stewart, who organized the competition.
Over the course of three days, the participants were put through a litany of exercises that tested their physical, mental and technical prowess. They had to work through the day and late into the night and were limited to about four hours of sleep per day.
Thats where you really find where that skill set is, Capt. Stewart said.
The pressure of the moment appeared to affect Cpl. Eric J. Smith, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who struggled to assemble the slide of his M9 pistol before he could fire it at a series of five targets.
You hear that helicopter idling, said Sgt. 1st Class Ashley C. Hess, one of the instructors on the course. Its waiting for you.
Making matters worse, Staff Sgt. Barry E. Carr Jr., who arrived at the station at the same time as Cpl. Smith, quickly assembled his pistol and hit all five targets. An instructor said he was the first soldier to do so that day.
Thats one of my advantages, Sgt. Carr later said. My dad started me hunting when I was 8. I was used to it.
Last year, Sgt. Carr qualified for the national competition and finished 13th among the approximately 35 competitors in that event.
Cpl. Smith, who admitted that he had never assembled a weapon in that kind of scenario before the competition week, missed at least two of his shots before hurrying to the next station.
Later in the course, Cpl. Smiths backpack caught in barbed wire under which he and three other soldiers had to carry a gurney.
He said that in retrospect, he would have taken off the backpack and carried it separately.
Neither Cpl. Smith nor Sgt. Carr finished in the top three spots.
The skills tested in the competition are ones that soldiers use on deployments and have received Army awards for in recent months.
In June, flight medic Staff Sgt. Brian D. Cammack was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross for lowering himself from a Black Hawk helicopter under fire to aid soldiers involved in a deadly firefight.
The soldiers performance under duress drew praise from some of the civilian medical observers at the competition Friday.
They adapt, overcome ... these are clinically sharp practitioners, said Steve P. Adkisson, trauma outreach program manager at Upstate Medical University, Syracuse. Every month, the hospital sends physicians and emergency room surgeons to train with soldiers.
First place in the competition went to Sgt. Robert O. Dickey, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team; second place went to Spc. Caleb M. Rhodes, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team; and third place went to Spc. David C. Caraccio, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
The top three finishers, along with three other unlisted additions, will train on post for about five weeks before the national competition at Camp Bullis, which is northwest of San Antonio, Texas.