Combat Medic Career Info in Different Military Branches

Combat Medics, Corpsmen, SARC, 18D, and SOCM

combat medic
68W, 18D, SOCM, SARC, W1. .mil

There are many types of medics and training programs that prepare them to save the lives of military members in clinic and combat situations. 

The terms medic, corpsman, doc, or combat medic are used regularly, depending on the service you are in. But the roles of the medical professionals in the military vary greatly. A “medic” can train to be side by side in fire fights with Infantry Units or Special Ops Teams, or they can become skilled as surgery technicians or physical therapists depending on what medical route they choose.

However, the combat medic in all the branches of service are warrior-medical-technicians and perform life-saving skills on the battlefield in the following units, and many others:

Army Special Forces Medic 

Medics in the Special Forces Operational Detachment are first Special Forces qualified. The 18D (18 Delta) medics in the Army Special Forces are highly trained Special Operations Combat Medics attending training for more than a year learning a variety of skills that include Dive medicine, Altitude physiology, Large Animal Veterinary care, Superstition and cultural peculiarity, Dental extraction, Orthopedics, and of course Advanced Trauma Life Support (ACLS).

The Special Force medic use their skills side by side with their fellow Special Forces operators as well they will be often utilized to assist foreign villages when doing the Foreign Internal Defense mission (FID).

Key Difference Between the 18D Course and the SOCM Course?

The first half of the 18D course trains in trauma medicine critical for combat medic operations.

This is the Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) course and lasts about 6 months. Special Forces medics will attend for another 5 months and train on medical problems and diagnosing illness. Many of the highly capable SEAL, USMC RECON (Navy Corpsmen) will attend the 2nd half of the 18D course later in their career.

Whiskey One (W1) course is a 22-week advanced medic course that prepares the 68W for duty in Ranger, SOAR units in the Army. An Army Combat Medic can also go for Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS for short) and go for entire 18-D course to become Special Forces Medical NCO.

Navy Hospital Corpsman (HM)

Navy medics can specialize in a variety of medical skills from diving, aviation, clinical, as well as Special Operations. Navy Corpsmen can serve on board ships, clinics, and also go into the Marine Corps and be their Spec Ops units (RECON/MarSOC) medics/other regular units too. The Special Amphibious RECON Corpsman (SARC) attend the Special Operations Combat Medic (SARC) course which is the “short course” of the 18D training — 22 weeks. Later in their careers, many SARC and SEAL and SWCC medics will attend the second half of the 18D training.

Before the SEALs had the Special Operator (SO) rating, they were a regular Navy rating (SEAL — qualified). The corpsman (HM) rating were SEALs with Special Operations Medic training (SOCM or 18D) who were part of every platoon. Now all SEALs, are the SO rating, however, they will take SEALs to attend specialty medic schools to become the SEAL medic in the unit.

After BUD/S, the new SEAL will apply for additional training to become the combat medic. You have to really have a calling for this mission as you will be away from the Teams for up to a year training to become a Special Operations Combat Medic at the 18D school. Just as a SEAL would be sniper trained or communications trained, SEALs will also get extra training to become the medic. However, when there is a void with a unit not having a combat medic, an 18D from Army Special Forces or Air Force PJs will be augmented into the group and perform mission essential tasks as the unit’s medic when needed. 

Air Force PJ – Combat Rescue Medic

The Air Force Combat Medic (Pararescue — PJ) attend their own Special Operations Combat Medic Course for 22 weeks, then they must attend Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course for 20 weeks which teaches the variety of methods of rescuing injured personnel in every environment and situation.



The PJ’s are 100 percent advanced special operations rescue specialist. They are also qualified to be medics with special operations trained paramedic certifications. They are fighters too and may be in the fight when having to rescue fallen pilot / others behind enemy lines / territory. They are often augmented into SEAL platoons when SEALs do not have a medic so they are fighter rescue specialists capable of flexibility in other Special Operations units.

68W (68 Whiskey): Army Combat Medic (Infantry and Other Units)

The regular medic in the Army is the 68W MOS — works in infantry/other fighting units within the Army. The primary job of the 68W are medic duties, but will carry a weapon, body armor, ammo, and of course the trauma medical gear for typical injuries seen in combat situations.

68W Medic school is roughly four months long and is broken down into two phases.

1st phase is training in CPR certifications as well as nationally registered EMT certification. There are long days of classroom time, but you have to pass these two courses in order to continue your training and you will need to keep them current in order to retain your MOS.

2nd phase is more commonly called the Whiskey side. The students will learn the advanced combat trauma medicine. You will learn everything from hooking IV's, advanced airway management, trauma management, limited primary care to name a few of the necessary skills used by combat medics.

As a 68W combat medic, you will either deploy as a line medic, which means you'll be attached to a platoon of soldiers and you're responsible for their medical care, when they go outside the wire and into combat situations, you go with them. The Line medic is in the fire-fight, treating at the point of injury, and you have far more to focus on than just treatment as you will be carrying your medical gear, weapon, ammo, and body armor.

The other duty you may rotate into is the Aid Station which is equivalent to working in a medical clinic. The Aid Station is the hub of all trauma treatment. You can receive multiple casualties and work way beyond your scope of practice. You may not "electively" join one or the other, or if assigned to a Brigade Combat Team, you may get a few months of each. 

68W Army Combat Medics can also go into other Special Operations units within SOCOM, the Ranger Regiment, SOAR, but you are required to go through W1 — Special Operations Combat Medic course first. The 68W can request to go to SOCM by submitting a DA4187 form. W1 is a special operations combat medic (SOCM) course.

There are no shortages of jobs for the military medic. Depending on how you want to serve, you are given many opportunities within the medical field to advance at your pace and career desires.

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