Special Operations medics are arguably the best-trained emergency medical care responders in the military, or indeed in the medical world. The nature of SOF operations means that operators more often than not find themselves in austere environments far from resupply or assistance. As a result, their medic training has to be the best possible.
A few years ago, the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) created a medic course for its operators. The Special Operations Tactical Medic (SOTM) course has been tailored to meet the specific needs of the NSW community. It’s a 28-week-long course divided into four phases:
- Phase One, which lasts four weeks, covers IV Therapy, Dive Medicine, and Prehospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS).
- Phase Two, which lasts three weeks, teaches students Trauma, Airway, and Patient Assessment in a tactical environment.
- Phase Three, which lasts 16 weeks, is the meat of the course and initiates students to the dark arts of the Paramedic.
- Phase Four, which lasts five weeks, teaches Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), Trauma lanes (patient assessment and management), Prolonged Field Care – in case SEAL/SWCC medics are too far behind enemy lines – and culminates with a final training exercise (FTX).
The goal of the SOTM is to produce SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen (SWCC) medics who will be able to provide critical life-saving assistance to their teammates downrange. But there is an important caveat: SOTM graduates are operators first and medics second – meaning that they don’t just sit on the side and wait for someone to get shot but that they are all-around contributors to their platoon or boat crew.
As of now, only pinned SWCC and SEAL operators are allowed to attend the SOTM. Graduates of the SOTM receive an NREMT-Paramedic license, which translates into a more robust and competitive resume for those seeking to leave service early.
Before the inception of the SOTM, SEAL and SWCC operators joined their SOF brethren from the other branches in the Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) course – arguably one of the tougher courses in the military and with an exceptionally high attrition rate. The establishment of the SOTM has as much to do with a desire for independence as with a need to train NSW medics to the unique needs of the SEAL and Boat Teams.
And yet not everything is rosy. Sources within the Naval Special Warfare community said to SOFREP that although the SOTM is a great addition to the NSW syllabus, it has some way to go before it catches up to SOCM in terms of class quality. Currently, SOCM is out off limits for NSW operators wishing to go down the warrior-healer path, and yet its reputation among the SEAL community is still the higher.
The motto of the SOTM school is “Inter Meos Fratres Et Mortem Sto,” which is Latin for “I Stand Between My Brothers and Death.”
This article was originally published in December 2019.
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