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METC celebrates 10 years training enlisted medical force

Students standing in auditorium Army and Navy students in the first consolidated Preventive Medicine program stand during their graduation at the Medical Education & Training Campus.

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When the Department of Defense’s 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission directed nearly all enlisted medical training be collocated at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, it may have unknowingly changed the landscape of enlisted medical training for the foreseeable future. In addition to collocating, the BRAC legislation also called for training to be consolidated where possible, meaning two or more services would share curriculum and classrooms. 

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 30, 2010, the Medical Education and Training Campus celebrated its entry into initial operating capability, along with the distinctions of being the world's largest enlisted allied-health campus and largest consolidation of U.S. military training in DoD history. That November, a handful of Air Force students who attended a two-week pharmacy craftsman course became the first METC graduates. 

Navy Rear Adm. Bob Kiser, METC's inaugural commandant, said at the time that the establishment of the METC marked a significant milestone in military medicine. "Everywhere our nation sends our finest to serve, our graduates will be there with them serving as a force for good because of the work done here," he asserted during his remarks.

Fast forward a decade and now METC is a world-class teaching facility and the only one of its kind in the world. Consolidating and streamlining medical training works to improve the quality and caliber of medical enlisted personnel, no matter their service or area of specialty. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are transformed into allied health professionals ready to serve in hospitals, on ships, in field assignments, and joint environments anywhere in the world. 

With 49 allied-health programs of instruction in 180 classrooms and 115 labs, the 1.1 million square foot campus averages 5,500 students on any given day. Depending on the course, students spend six weeks to 13 months learning their skills, with about 16,500 annual graduates going on to support the military's medical forces. A third of the graduates are reserve and National Guard personnel, who will also return home to practice in their communities. To date, the METC has graduated approximately 140,000 corpsmen, medics and technicians.

Over the course of five years following the BRAC decision, the services combined expertise, best practices and, with extensive planning, determination and dedication, created the new schoolhouse almost exclusively from the ground up. The Navy moved three major enlisted medical training centers from Portsmouth, Virginia; San Diego, California; and Great Lakes, Illinois, while the Air Force relocated its enlisted medical training from Wichita Falls, Texas. Army enlisted medical training was already located on Fort Sam Houston. 

The training requirements were determined by the services and executed at the METC. Courses were combined where it made sense to do so, while still retaining some service-specific programs, such as Army combat medic, Air Force medical technician, and Navy hospital corpsman training. 

Although students trained in a joint environment, they also maintained their separate service identities outside of the academic environment, as all activities and functions beyond the classroom were managed by the respective service components. 

Today, as with most training institutions, technology plays a large role in the curriculum. The METC’s unique training environment allows students to learn and hone their skills using hi-fidelity human patient simulators, digital anatomy tables, mock intensive care units, and operating rooms. Additionally, the use of simulated combat settings prepares students for operational environments.  

“The future of enlisted medical training will see METC transitioning to more of a virtual campus, utilizing digital technology where feasible,” stated METC Commandant, Navy Capt. Thomas Herzig. “As METC incorporates cutting edge training tools and platforms into our programs of instruction, our graduates continue to be the finest medics, corpsmen, and technicians who are ready to serve the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.”

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Lambing, the former senior enlisted advisor for the METC, envisioned the future quite clearly back in 2010 when he exclaimed that, "METC will serve as the birthplace for joint interoperability for corpsman, medics and technicians. The souls that will walk the hallowed halls of this institution will make a difference in faraway lands for centuries to come. In five years, every medic and corpsman under the grade of E-5 will have been educated here at METC."

METC reached full operational capability in September 2011; with more courses consolidated in subsequent years. In August 2014, the METC was realigned and entered initial operating capability under the Education and Training Directorate of the newly established Defense Health Agency. 

From saving lives on the battlefield to fighting the novel coronavirus in their own communities, METC graduates have continued to successfully serve their nation, and their communities.

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