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lovelysalome
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Company aid man questions

Tue Aug 25, 2009 16:00

Hello,

I am a writer researching a novel about a company aid man with the 82nd Airborne. (Consider me a reenactor with words!) Ideally, my character would've been a volunteer paratrooper but a reluctant medic.

During my research, I haven't been able to determine the scenarios by which company aid men in the airborne were allocated and trained. Was the man a paratrooper first, then selected to become an aid man from among his company? If so, when would any medical instruction have taken place during the course of his training? Or was he trained with a separate medical unit and then attached to the company before combat?

I would appreciate any and all scenarios for how this would've occurred.

Thanks!

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Re: Company aid man questions

Tue Aug 25, 2009 17:03

From the combat medics I have interviewed, most of them were selected at entry or in Basic for that job - some held medical-related jobs before they entered the Army - some didn't. These jobs were not requiring extensive training (prarmacy clerk, door-to-door drug sales, hospital janitor), but to the uninitiated, they worked around sick people, so make 'em a medic!

Training was done (usually) before assignment to a unit. I would suspect that an aid man would have his medical training before he went to his unit and recieved jump training. Once assigned to a parachute regiment, he would get the same jump training that the rest of the soldiers got.

FYI, the medic was part of the medical company or medical battalion assigned to the infantry company or squad. He always was a medic first, and part of the squad second. It was common for the medics to work with several squads and to rotate through - working with whatever unit needed medical support at the time.
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lovelysalome
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Re: Company aid man questions

Tue Aug 25, 2009 21:36

FYI, the medic was part of the medical company or medical battalion assigned to the infantry company or squad. He always was a medic first, and part of the squad second. It was common for the medics to work with several squads and to rotate through - working with whatever unit needed medical support at the time.


Hi David,

Thanks for the information. Was the above quote always the case? Eugene Roe (obviously a visible source of info because of Ambrose and the BoB miniseries) was with Easy Company, 101st, from basic training at Toccoa onward and is never listed as having been a member of a medical company. His family claims that he volunteered for the paratroopers and was assigned as a medic then. Possibly accurate for the 101st? Or was his identification with Easy part of an entertainment necessitated-shorthand for having been part of a medical company (the 326th?) and just serving with the same PIR company (Easy) throughout the war? I've read various memoirs that refer to "attached" and "detached" company medics, but which never provide a solid definition of the differences. Can you?

I'm really trying to understand the basic structure--and possible variations, if they existed--and get it right. Again, thanks for your time and knowledge.

Best,
Carrie

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Re: Company aid man questions

Tue Aug 25, 2009 22:20

I would defer to others on the paratroops. In 10th Mountain, there were a few that were selected for mountain troops first, then sent out for medical training, but most of the guys were selected to be medics first, then sent for medics training, then to mountain training. I think Alain is quite knowledgeable about the paratroops - lets see what he says!

Usually a medic stayed with the same Infantry company while in combat, but within that company could be moved around squad to squad. His home unit was the Medical Company or Medical Battalion.
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Alain
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Re: Company aid man questions

Sat Aug 29, 2009 13:59

Hi Carrie,
There were 2 ways to join a medical unit - either as having had a 'medical-related' job before joining the Armed Forces, or just being selected during Basic Training for a 'medical' function !
In addition to the Training peculiar to the Medical Department, every member of the Armed Services had to participate in Basic Training . There were a number of military subjects prescribed by the War Department regardless of the selected Arm or Service . They included defense and protection, personal hygiene, sanitation and first aid, equipment, clothing, tent pitching, and physical training, as well as drill and military courtesy and discipline (the program usually consisted of a 13-week detailed MTP - Mobilization Training Program) .
The above was generally followed by Technical Training including 'special' training and instruction required by medical personnel to perform all necessary technical services for which it was to become responsible . Trainees of divisional medical units (e.g. Medical Battalions or Medical Companies) and attached medical personnel (e.g. Medical Detachments) .
A Tactical Training was also given including logistical movements, field operation and function of the various medical installations operated by the medical unit .
The original 13-week program was later restricted to 11 weeks, which was given at the new MRTC - Medical Replacement Training Centers .
Basically, the original 13-week program consisted of :
First or Basic period > 2 weeks
Technical period > 8 weeks
Tactical period > 3 weeks
Specific hours were allotted to a number of different subjects, and training differed for Medical Officers, Basic - Medical - Surgical - Dental - Veterinary - Sanitary Technicians, and Enlisted Men .
With regard to the 82d Airborne Division or the 101st Airborne Division, there was only a single Airborne Medical Company (no Battalion) for obvious practical reasons . While the majority of the medical personnel obtained their jump wings after joining their unit (reasons of pride, status, etc), there were medics who never got them, after all, they were members of an 'airborne' unit (i.e. to be moved by 'airborne' means, such as aircraft and/or gliders, not necessarily to jump with a parachute) . There have been cases of medical personnel, who skipped parts of the foreseen medical training, for already possessing the required skills (such as Registered Nurses or Physicians), and I know medics who were assigned to 'medical' units directly from Replacement Depots, w/o having gone through the required technical training (urgency to replace unit losses) . As a matter of fact, there will always be exceptions ... some people even volunteered for the Airborne, or were keen to obtain Jump Wings too ...

I hope the above will be useful, one way or another .
Best ,
Alain :wink:
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Re: Company aid man questions

Sat Aug 29, 2009 17:27

All very useful information, yes!

Here's a question that still confuses me. Doc Roe of Band of Brothers fame is always listed as a member of Company E 2/506th--in their memorials for the fallen, etc. He volunteered for the Airborne, was assigned to be an aid man, and trained at Toccoa with the other members of Easy. He never participated in another company's activities throughout the war. Would such a man actually be a member of the 326th AMC who was simply assigned to a PIR company (and never got moved anywhere else)? Or could he have been a bona fide member of the 506th?

It makes a difference to me this way: For my fictional work, I want to establish a strong sense of loyalty between my aid man and his PIR platoon. But if he was, in truth, part of a medical company "on loan" to a PIR, then I'll have to take that into account and make his attachment psychological, not official. I need to understand if he is there to stay for the duration and knows it, or if he always carries the knowledge that he could be transferred to another outfit when needed.

Again, thanks so much for your expertise!

Best,
Carrie

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Re: Company aid man questions

Sat Aug 29, 2009 19:49

Carrie,
Members of an Airborne Medical Company were 'bonafide' medical personnel pertaining to this organization . A number of them were 'detached' (hence the designation Medical Detachment) and spread over the three Battalions of the Infantry Regiments . Although they were true medical people, they in fact almost became an intrinsic part of the Regiment, Battalion, Company, and considered themselves to be genuine members of this outfit ! Most of the time, these people would remain with the outfit during a Campaign or even sit out the duration of the war with the same unit, this should explain the strong bond among men of a same unit . It did happen though that after being wounded, medics were assigned to a different outfit ...
It should be underlined that the 'esprit de corps' of the Medical Detachment (we'll take the example of the Abn Med Co here that you seem to prefer) was so strong, that the War Department had taken this into consideration, allowing Medical Detachments of an Infantry Company, to have a Dark Blue Infantry Guidon adorned with White Crossed Infantry Muskets and the designation MED, to designate the Detachment, while Officers, NCOs, and EM were to wear the Distinctive Insignia of the Infantry Regiment ! The only exception being that medical personnel could wear the 'service' insignia and/or collar disks on the service coat lapels, and the specific maroon/white piping on the garrison cap .
Those members of the 'basic' Airborne Medical Company (i.e. not detached personnel), would instead keep to the traditional Maroon Company Guidon with White Caduceus and other symbols .

I hope this clears any misunderstanding .
Regards ,
Alain :)
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Re: Company aid man questions

Sat Aug 29, 2009 20:04

That's excellent information, Alain. Thank you so much!

Carrie

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Re: Company aid man questions

Sat Aug 29, 2009 20:09

Aside from the somewhat complicated training question, the question of command is simple. Two main groups.
1. Medical personnel at the regimental level, including the medical officers in the battalion aid stations, the litter bearer groups and the individual medical aid men attached to the platoons in combat units, were ATTACHED personnel. That means they were all under the direct command of the regnment and it's companies, in this case the 501PIR and each company in that regiment. They were not part of medical company-no connection. They wore the DI of that infantry regiment.
2. All other medical personnel, in collecting stations, clearing stations, evac. hospitals, and all other hospitals and facilities were ORGANIC personel. That means they were part of medical companies, hospitals, etc. and were under the command of those organizations. They wore the DI of their respective medical unit.
Actual combat medical soldiers thus were part of the combat unit and were under their command. This is of course not to say that individual officers and men didnt get reassigned from time to time.
Look at section III of the Military Medical Manual which describes this nicely in detail. Hope this helps.

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Re: Company aid man questions

Sat Aug 29, 2009 20:22

That's more of the clarification I was looking for. Thank you, PAdoc.

Best,
Carrie

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Alain
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Re: Company aid man questions

Sun Aug 30, 2009 07:02

Carrie,
Why NOT read our webpage Articles : www.med-dept.com/articles.php - The Medical Department - Paragraphs vi & vii .
It's all there (Med Bn + Med Det) .
Alain :wink:
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Re: Company aid man questions

Sun Aug 30, 2009 18:44

Alan is certainly right. The real glory of the site is not the forum, it is the hugh wealth of information the site contains. Take some time and explore, and usually you will find the answers you seek.

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Re: Company aid man questions

Wed Sep 02, 2009 19:43

Hi Carrie -

From an administrative perspective, Soldiers end up in a unit one of two ways - assigned or attached. The Soldier's assigned unit is considered their parent unit and the assigned unit would retain the majority of the administrative action for that Soldier (pay, benefits, etc). When a special need arises, a Soldier or a group of Soldiers could be attached to another unit. When the group of Soldiers are detached from their parent unit with a complete chain of command, the group is usually referred to as a detachment. Typically Soldiers are attached for a limited amount of time and then returned to their parent unit. However, in the case medical units, they were attached to the front line units (infantry/tank/engineer/artillery company/platoon/squads) knowing they would stay there for the duration. This essentially provided the aidmen with two support channels - the medical battalion/company and the line unit he was attached to. The unit the Soldiers are attached to would be responsible for food, water, gas, ammo - whatever common items needed to accomplish the mission. The parent unit is usually responsible for the specialty items - vehicles, bandages, plasma, litters, boats, explosives, etc.

From my experience, the allegiance of most company aid men primarily rests with the company they are attached. While the bonds always exist between the aid man and his medical battalion, the bond between the aid man and those he cares for is even stronger. After all the aid man shares in the common experience of the infantryman, tanker, engineer or artilleryman. They share the worst that man can bring against man in combat - the violence, sleeping in mud, cold chow, uncertain future, isolation.

While all front line units share these experiences, the bonds that get built between infantrymen and their "doc" are the strongest. To the grunt, Doc is a counseler, prophet, sorcer and healer. Doc is always there to help out whether its an ear or shoulder, foot powder, aspirin, band aid or tourniquet - even when it means risking his own life. Probably the second hardest thing for the infantryman and his doc, is telling doc he can't risk himself to help another soldier. The best theatric display of this was "Saving Private Ryan" when Caparzo is shot after helping the French girl. The hardest thing for the infantryman is losing a good doc. When a unit loses a good aid man, it can effect everyone as much as losing a good leader. Knowing that, the grunts will do everything possible to take care of their aid man. Some platoons will pull extra guard duty, KP, etc so that Doc doesn't have to. They will give Doc extra food or clothes with an almost sacrificial mentality hoping that Doc stays healthy and cares for them.

If you are looking to portray the typical relationship between aid man and infantrymen, that's the way I would do it. Hope that helps.
Peter

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