We get asked multiple times a week if we have any advice to give for new 68w, those going to the SOCM course, or those interested in being a medic. We’re going to do our best to help answer some questions, and we’ll continue to add to the list as we think of/get asked new questions and answers.
1) Q) What can I do to prepare for the upcoming SOCM course?
The SOCM course is not a course that you NEED to pre-study for. They do a fantastic job of setting you up for success as long as you put the time and energy into learning it. We didn’t study for a single day before the start of the course. However, we ended up studying 3-4hrs every night and studying 8-10 hours each Saturday and Sunday in order to pass the tests. REALLY wish we were exaggerating too…but we’re not. Studying ahead of time would have benefitted us greatly, not only in the depth of our understanding of the material, but potentially the amount of time we had to study each night!
So, what can we do to prepare?
-- Know your Anatomy and Physiology. You do not need to know every single piece of the human body. Don’t even try. You will be far better served knowing the major muscles systems, nerves, arteries and veins, bones of the body, how the body works, sections of the heart, lungs, etc. This is not a complete list, but it’s a GREAT way to start building a foundation of knowledge.
2) Q: What are some good study guides to get me started?
- There is no one size fits all. However, we do recommend the following books that worked for us.
A) Anatomy and Physiology Cliff Notes (yes it exists, and yes, it is super helpful) https://is.gd/L61Nth
B) Netter’s Anatomy flash cards: https://is.gd/il6YZR
C) Anatomy Coloring Book: https://is.gd/rw8a3Y
2. If you want to work ahead a bit, the ‘bible’ of Special Operations Medicine is the Advanced Tactical Paramedic Protocols 10th Addition put out by the Journal of Special Operations Medical.
3) I’m starting 68w school soon. Any advice?
-- Probably the biggest thing that we learned when we joined the military and our subsequent progression through different schools and units was this: Your reputation starts from day one. How you present yourself, how you interact with others, and most importantly, how hard you work will follow you for the rest of your military career. For as large as the military is, someone will inevitably ALWAYS know someone where you are going or currently are.
As an example, we had someone in our basic training class who was disrespectful, immature, and lazy. However, he was an absolute physical stud. We ended up on the same military base, but in different military units, and we ran into him from time to time. He had not changed a bit. Last time we saw him, he told us he was going to the next SF selection class. Interesting…you know what’s also interesting? We were far enough along in our careers where we had really good friends who were on the selection committee…who had ALSO BEEN IN OUR BASIC TRAINING CLASS. Sure enough, he was a non-select. Not because of his inability to pass the physical portions of SFAS, but because his reputation proceeded him.
-- Make your mistakes in training. Put yourself in uncomfortable scenarios, and never pass up an opportunity for extra practice.
-- Do not EVER feel you have it figured out. A medic is never off-duty, and no injury set is ever unique. Never stop practicing, never stop drilling. We as medics tend to practice on the same set of injuries over and over again. If we can’t pull ourselves out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves, we will never progress and advance.
4) I am on the fence about being a medic. What should I know about the job? Is it right for me? We have no idea if it’s right for you. However, being a medic was the most rewarding job we ever had. Using your skillset to return a teammate back to their family is a feeling that cannot be replicated. To have a chance to kneel over them and see a sense of fear turn to relief because they trust your ability to save their life is not something that 99% of jobs give you the opportunity to do. The only caveat to that? Your job is NEVER done. A gun may not change for 30 years, but medicine never ceases to change and progress.
5) What was the toughest part of the SOCM/18D course?
Every person will find a different portion of the course to be the toughest. For us, it was the hands-on portion, but for a large number of people, it was the Anatomy and Physiology portion. The A&P part of the course was 6 straight weeks of an absolute firehose of information shoved down your throat. We were told it was comparable to a years-worth of Anatomy and Physiology in 6 weeks, with tests every 2-3 days. Fail 1 test and you had to retake it. Fail it again or fail a 2nd test (failing was 74.4%) and you were immediately recycled or taken out of the course and re-classed or sent to needs of the Army. Out of class of 72 that started, we were down to 50 after the first 6 weeks. The second biggest portion that got guys recycled or failed was a portion that heavily tested a variety of hands-on skills. You never knew what you were going to get, and you had strict time standards that you had to meet while remembering exact steps within numerous sequences. Miss enough of the small things or any of the big ones, and you were a failure. We graduated 33 people out of a class of 72 for SOCM.
Here is the biggest thing we discovered. You have to work harder and study harder than you’ve likely ever studied and worked before. Not only that, but you have to find it within yourself to maintain that motivation for nearly a year. When you finish though, the pride you will feel is unmatched. This is not meant to scare you, it is meant to give you a realistic look at what is expected of you. You will study for hours each night. You will study on weekends. You will give up your weekends of drinking and relaxing, and you will lose sleep in favor of more studying and practicing. You will likely have bad days, and doubt yourself and if you belong. That is okay. Every single person going through SOCM has doubted themselves at some point. Keep going!
6) How should I mentally and physically prepare for the school?
-- Develop good study habits. Learn how you learn. What do we mean? Figure out if you are a visual learner, rote memorization (repetitive learning), or other. Do you need notecards for everything? Do you use word association to help you remember things? Finding out how you learn best will help you not waste time early in the course figuring this out.
-- Mentally understand and prep yourself and your loved ones for the time commitment that you will have to undergo in order to be successful.
-- Stay as physically fit as you would in any other school. Just because you’ll be in a garrison environment with mainly classroom sessions does not mean you are not expected to be physically capable of rucking, running and passing your PT tests according to the SOF standard of 270. Every so often they'll give you a PT test, and god help you if you fail.
7) Are there any good books out there describing the 68W or SOCM/18D course?
No, not to our knowledge. Most references to the SOCM/18D course are paragraphs or blurbs in other books, such as Masters of Chaos, Chosen Soldier, etc.
8) What are rotations like? Rotations at civilian Level 1 trauma centers and local EMS services take place during the SOCM course, and are meant to give you the real life hands on experience you have theoretically only been training on up to that point. You will experience true traumas during this period, where you will be evaluated and gain experience. This was one of the best months of our lives in terms of realistic application of what we had been taught.
Where do these take place and what are the expectations? You'll have to get to that point to find out!
9) Should I pick up your Medic Quick Reference Guides before I join the Army?
With complete honesty, not yet. The Medic Quick Reference Guide and Narcotic Quick Reference Guide will do you the most good once you have started your 68W program or SOCM and have at least a base of knowledge. You can check it out HERE to see if it would be a good fit for you if you've already started school or are currently a medic!
Didn’t find your question here? Shoot us a comment and we’ll add onto this list with our responses!