The following is an interview with an experienced combat medic who has served in numerous campaigns across the galaxy, in a variety of capacities. For the sake of anonymity, names, locations, and other identifying information have been removed. Otherwise, it is wholly unedited. Reader discretion is advised.
Alright, so- you're sure this isn't going to have my name on it? Okay, so there are a few things that the movies get wrong about being a medic. I guess that goes without saying, but man, I wish I'd had some warning, you know?
First, let's get this out of the way: you're going to see a lot of dicks. A LOT of dicks. Somehow in all the war movies, they leave out that part. There are a few reasons why. For starters, you're not actually going to be on a battlefield most of the time. I've been doing this for what, fifteen, sixteen years maybe? I don't know, it's been a long damn time. At any rate, I've spent maybe seven of those in actual combat zones, and only a couple on the frontlines.
Most of my time was spent in either a field hospital helping out real doctors or in a clinic in the rear. And lemme tell you, there's nothing a soldier on pass won't stick his pecker in. I've seen so many diseased penises over the years. So many. And they never get them checked out when the symptoms first appear. "Doc, it burns when I pee." Okay, that was a week ago, and now it's turning green and smells like last week's spoiled takeout. Bogan's Beard, people, even primitives have figured out how to make condoms. Use them.
Anyway, you also see plenty in field hospitals. Get shot, you're gonna get naked. There are a number of reasons why. Bullets tend to travel in packs, you know? Unless you're dealing with a sniper, there's even odds you got hit more than once. Same with shrapnel. You come in, your uniform or whatever is a bloody mess, we don't know how many holes you actually have. Not to mention it's probably filthy and is carrying Force only knows what sort of germs. So we cut it off.
Plus, and we'll touch more on this later, you're gonna be doped up out of your mind. We don't need you pissing all over the place, so we're gonna shove a catheter in you and make life easier for everyone.
What? Oh, yeah, I guess we get vaginas too, but not as many.
Back in garrison, women tend to be a little more careful about who they sleep with, so you don't have quite as many female soldiers coming in with the clap. That, and the ones that do usually prefer to be looked at by female medics. Don't get me wrong, I've had to treat my fair share. One thing you don't see as much with the guys is genital related trauma as a result of liquid courage. Mainly just bruised testicles. But for a certain sort of lady, anything is insertable if you're brave enough. It's like the male soldiers sleeping with anything that has a pulse and a hole, but with inanimate objects. It just comes with being young and stupid and being simultaneously aware of your own mortality while still thinking you're invincible. Gender is largely irrelevant.
And even in modern integrated militaries, you just don't get as many chicks out in harm's way. I've heard a bunch of theories over the years as to why, but I don't want to get too deep into the weeds. I'm a medic, not a sociologist or whatever. But the same rule still applies: get shot, get naked.
Moving on.
In the movies, the medic is always this mad bastard running in between tracers to get to the wounded on the battlefield. Um, no. That almost never happens. If you're lucky, you've got one medic for every twenty or so grunts. The surviving grunts tend to get really upset if said medic risks their ass unnecessarily. They'll bring the casualty to you, or let you know when it's relatively safe to go. Running out into enemy fire greatly increases the chance that everyone gets killed. Grunts are expendable. Medics are not, or at least not as expendable.
Speaking of expendable, the battlefield medic? Chances are, he's the FNG. Wouldn't be there if he couldn't do the job, but experienced medics are worth their weight in whatever precious metal you care to name. If the FNG gets his ass shot off it's still a loss, but you're not losing years of valuable experience with them. Once you get a couple of tours out on the sharp end under your belt, expect to spend most of your time away from the fighting.
All that experience you've gained is better used in places like field hospitals. Knowing how to keep someone alive when their body wants to die is a valuable skill, and one that frees up a lot of the surgical team's attention. Knowing how to do things like triage, recording vitals, post operation care, all of this helps out the doctors and the nurses, who are even more scarce than medics, and in turn helps save more lives.
Or you get more training. Maybe you end up going to school to become a flight medic, and end up doing search and rescue. Maybe you get EMT certified, and ride around in ambulances. Hell, you could even end up teaching school. There's always a critical shortage of experienced instructors in medic school. I've done a couple of stints there myself, though I can't say I cared for it.
I've even known medics who went on to become doctors and nurses themselves, which leads me to my next point.
The best medic, on his best day, is no match for a properly trained doctor. The length of our school varies, but it's usually between six months to a year. In that time, we'll learn how to do just about anything and everything short of cracking open a skull to save a life. We'll also learn how to recognize and treat a handful of common but minor ailments, such as sprains, strains, colds, and yes, STDs. Over the years we'll pick up more skills as we go along, but that's the gist of it.
I don't have a clue about a good three quarters of what a family practice doctor handles on a daily basis. What I know about pharmacology, rheumatology, immunology, or whatever else doesn't extend beyond a very narrow band of applications directly related to my job. If you come to me with a bullet lodged in you, I can probably save your life. If you come to me with some mystery ailment or something, I'm gonna tell you to take Ibuprofen, drink water, and change your socks. If that doesn't work, here's hoping it's not fatal.
Speaking of fatal, here's another one for you: most battlefield deaths that aren't the result of massive trauma are preventable. Seriously. There are very few places where you can shoot someone and kill them instantly. There are a few more where they're more or less screwed if you don't shoot them right outside of an ER, but mostly? You've got time to save them. Maybe only minutes or seconds, but that's still time.
If you can stop the bleeding and prevent or treat tension pneumothorax, the vast majority of casualties can be saved.