Equally true, if you do something dumb – news travels fast in SOCM and the grapevine is very unforgiving. Keep a low profile. Stay out of trouble. Work hard. Right place, right time, right uniform.
Block 2: A & P and Physical Exams.
This is the block where the 6-week course at CSU would have set you up for success. Many people find this block mentally challenging. Understanding DNA synthesis is not easy. There are many online tools you can use to help though. YouTube can be a great (free) tutor.
The culmination of the A & P block is the Gross Pin Test. You will walk through the cadaver lab and have to name various muscles, organs, nerves, vessels. You will have to state which nerve innervates which muscle. What endocrine gland secretes which hormone. Etc.
For the gross anatomy, I made a YouTube play-list to help me study:
Similarly, for the ‘Special Tests’ pertaining to the Physical Exam, I made another play-list:
I’m a visual learner, so watching was more helpful to me than reading alone.
Block 3: Clin Med.
Aka: death by powerpoint. Here you’ll have a lot of information imparted to you. Stay awake in these lectures. Don’t be ‘that guy’. I found it useful to skip lunch (so I didn’t end up in food-coma in the afternoon) and go for a 30-minute run instead during my lunch break. There’s a 1.6 mile trail (The Engineer’s Trail) right next to the schoolhouse that weaves through the woods. It’s a nice way to just clear your head and get the blood pumping by doing a couple of laps of the trail before the afternoon classes begin. You may even see some of the cadre out running it during their lunch too.
Clin Med is divided into two smaller blocks (‘A’ & ‘B’). Clin Med A is historically harder than Clin Med B. Basically, this will be your introduction to all the diseases and ailments of all the major systems (cardiovascular, immune system, genitourinary, etc). At some point during Clin Med you will have to do physical exams on each other, to include a digital rectal exam (DRE). Yep. You’re going to get real familiar with your classmates. You’ll also have to do vision tests to include fundoscopic exams. And at some point during the course wherever the dental instruction is now located you’ll have to inject a numbing agent into each other’s mouths to give each other the various nerve blocks.
Don’t get complacent in Clin Med. It’s a very academic block. But Trauma 1, 2 and 3 are just around the corner, lurking…
Here’s some more study material I put together on a play-list for Clin Med:
If you get through Clin Med, you’ll be feeling like you’ve got it in the bag. Wrong. Yes, many people will have fallen by the wayside at this point. You may have already lost 10% of your original class. Maybe more. But you’re only just scraping the top of the iceberg. SOCM gets gnarly very quickly.
Block 4: Trauma 1.
IV’s and splints. Incorporated into PT. Maybe a PT test at this point also. You’ll also do your Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Education for Pre-hospital Providers (PEPP) certifications during this block. PEPP is pretty easy. ACLS is broken into practical and written tests. The practical tests are not to be taken lightly. It’s really worth getting to grips with the study material here as it’s the same in civilian medicine as it is taught in the schoolhouse. A word of wisdom: don’t get bogged down trying to understand the complexities of electrocardiograms. Keep it simple. Is the rate regular? Is it fast or slow? Is there a P-wave before every QRS complex? That should be enough to identify the rhythm. Be a master of the basics. I have some excellent one-page cheat-sheet/study guides for understanding heart rhythms and heart blocks that I would be only too happy to email you if you PM me.
There’s also some really good websites like, six-second ECG which will square you away:
I still use the six-second ECG website to keep my skills fresh. ECG interpretation, just like IV’s and splinting, is a perishable skill. Use it or lose it. It’s on you to maintain your knowledge once you’ve acquired it. Don’t get complacent. True, you may not be interpreting too many ECG’s as a Ranger Medic, but you’d be surprised. Maybe you’ll come across a civilian contractor who is having a myocardial infarction (MI). It would pay to know if it’s a right-sided inferior MI so you know whether to give nitroglycerine and morphine or not (if you give these drugs to someone having a right-sided inferior MI you can tank their blood pressure).
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that if you enjoy learning you’re already ahead of the curve. If you’re just going through SOCM checking the boxes to get to Regiment, you’re wrong. You need to genuinely want to be the best medic you can be for your buddies. There’s always something to learn. Cultivate an inquisitive mind. It will serve you well in the long-run.
Block 5: Trauma 2.
OPSEC restricts me talking about this block in detail. But if you’re familiar with the pipeline you’ll know what this block entails.
Firstly, Trauma Patient Assessment (TPA) is as one instructor described “a kick in the balls” (pardon my French). It’s a steep learning curve. If you haven’t begun studying the TPA sequence at least 4-weeks prior to getting to this block then you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage. Yes, they teach you it during this block, but really you’re expected to know it already. Many people fail TPA.
Next is the infamous Combat Trauma Management (CTM) which has the highest attrition rate of any other part of the SOCM course. On average, only about 80% of your remaining class will pass this block. It’s very hard. Your time-hacks are tight. You have to be expert at intubating and getting IV’s. You have to know your sequence backwards. Your weekends will be spent practicing. You will have hardly no free-time and you will have little sleep. Suck it up and knock it out.
It’s a nerve-wracking time. You can do it though, if you put in the hours and know your sequence thoroughly. Master intubation. And master IV skills.
By the end of Trauma 2, my original class had diminished from over 70 students to about 40 students… This is about average for most classes. Although some of those that fail will get a ‘recycle’, there’s no guarantees. Things that will help you if you go to the Baord: if you haven’t recycled anything else prior to Trauma 2, if your PT score is good (above 290) and if you have no disciplinary actions (or bad reputation in general). If you do have to go to the ARB, make sure you let your Ranger LNO know as soon as possible. His influence can save you at the Board. Also, if you do recycle CTM, you’ll have a great opportunity to teach the other students. Usually every CTM class has enough recycles to assign one to each small group (in CTM you’re broken down into lanes of 8 students and sub-lanes of 4 students, with two instructors per lane / one instructor per sub-lane).
My tip for CTM: KNOW THE SIX MAJOR BLEEDS!!! Facial (and facial with burns). Ax-pocket. Lat-fem. Med-fem. Mesenteric. And Brachial.