LATHAM, N.Y. - Two New York Army National Guard medics assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, were among 44 Soldiers competing to be the Army’s best medics at Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 24-28.
Staff Sgt. Dylan Delamarter, the Headquarters Company medical platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Ethan Hart, a medic in Delamarter’s platoon, were the only National Guard Soldiers vying for the title during the Command Sgt. Major Jack L. Clark Best Medic competition.
They didn’t win, but just being among the 21 two-Soldier teams to finish the Army Medical Command competition put them in a select category among the Army’s 82,149 medical personnel, said Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army.
“What you have right here, out of that 82,000-plus Army medicine Soldiers, are the world’s best medics,” Dingle said during the award ceremony.
Delamarter and Hart went up against teams from the Army’s active-duty divisions, medical commands and the Ranger Regiment.
It was physically and mentally demanding, the weather was rainy and cold, the ruck marches were long, the days were long, there was too little sleep and they felt like they fit right in, the two Guard Soldiers said.
“We were all in the same boat,” Delamarter said. “You look to the left and the right of you, everybody was under the same amount of stress.”
“Everybody there was super humble, whether they were coming from a special operations unit or any other unit in the Army,” Hart said. “There was a good comradery.”
The two wound up at Fort Hood because New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski thought there should be a New York National Guard medic team in the Army competition.
Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major John Sampa put out a call for an Army Guard team to compete. He reached out to Command Sgt. Major Daniel Markle, the top enlisted leader in the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, for candidates, Piwowarski said.
To compete, candidates had to be either Expert Field Medic Badge or Combat Medic Badge qualified. “These two NCOs stepped up,” Markle said.
Delamarter, who also serves as the Headquarters Company training noncommissioned officer at the 108th Infantry’s Utica armory, held the Combat Medic Badge from a 2012 Afghanistan deployment. Hart earned the Expert Field Medic Badge in the fall at Fort Drum.
Both men are in good shape, although Delamarter, at age 35, said he was older than most of the competitors.
Hart and Delamarter had two months to get ready. They focused on physical fitness.
“We knew it was going to be a marathon rather than a sprint,” Delamarter said. “We started doing more unorthodox things at the gym to build endurance.”
The two discovered that thinking marathon, not sprint, was the right strategy.
“It was very endurance-heavy,” Delamarter said. “As long as we could ruck and run — move patients from here to there — we were set up for success. It was just a matter of how long we could do it. It ended up being three and a half, almost four days, of beating up our bodies.”
The most sleep they got was five hours one night, Delamarter said.
Competition events included a 13-mile march in the rain, M-4 rifle marksmanship, carrying simulated casualties using a two-person litter, and dragging a patient in a plastic “sked.”
At the same time, the Soldiers were carrying rucksacks weighing 65 or so pounds. They were also often wet, as it rained regularly during the competition.
Hart said the water combat survival event was a challenge.
Each team jumped into a pool in full combat gear, ditched the gear at the bottom of the pool, surfaced and swam to the aid of a casualty. While one teammate conducted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the other swam back to retrieve the equipment.
Hart said they also tread water in combat boots for five minutes and made a float from their gear to stay up in the water.
“It was pretty rough,” he recalled. “I didn’t think I could be so close to death for so long.”
Another task involved pulling a casualty out of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and moving him to an evacuation point. That required caring for the badly wounded Soldier for four hours while waiting for the medevac, Delamarter said.
Just making it through the course was an accomplishment, said Markle, who got the chance to observe the competition.
The Soldiers walked and ran 30 miles in 72 hours, “pretty much nonstop,” Markle said.
They were also asked medical questions throughout the event and had to be prepared for constantly changing tasks.
Despite all the challenges, getting the chance to compete was the best reward for being there, Hart and Delamarter said.
“It is not an opportunity that somebody gives you freely,” Hart said. “It is a once in a career opportunity. I didn’t want to miss the challenge. I wanted to see where I stack up against the rest of the Army.”