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An army medic is a person responsible for providing first aid in combat situations. There are many medical professionals involved in military operations, such as in a military hospital, but the term army medic is usually only used for those who provide medical care on the field. Additionally, a country's navy, air force, or other military groups may also employ medics, but these medics often have different titles, requirements, and responsibilities. An army medic specifically serves the army and those whom the army encounters, including civilians.
The primary duty of an army medic is to give a person enough medical attention during an emergency that he or she will survive the trip to a more sophisticated medical environment. It is generally not feasible during combat to provide detailed and comprehensive medical care. Action taken immediately after serious injury on the field can be sufficient to save a person's life.
Army medics may also work to provide minor first aid, although this is usually not a major concern. Medics who have been appropriately trained may be responsible for providing medications and vaccinations. When access to physicians and medical facilities is limited, an army medic may be responsible for treating diseases and serious injuries for an extended duration. In emergency situations, a medic may be forced to perform duties outside the scope of his or her training, and to make due with what equipment is available.
An army medic's training typically covers basic medical care for the types of injuries a medic usually encounters, such as bleeding or amputation, with additional focus on performing these duties in highly stressful and hazardous environments. Many countries train army medics in an official program, but some combat units have similar medic members that are unofficially trained. In almost all cases, an army medic is also trained for combat, even if he or she is not expected to use these skills.
Most combat units that employ medics mark those members of their unit in some way. There are several acceptable symbols used to mark medics, including the red cross, red crescent, and red crystal. These markings are intended to keep medics safe and allow the injured to find them.
Traditionally, and particularly since the First Geneva Convention, it has been considered unacceptable to fire upon a medic wearing identifying symbols. Attempting to injure a medic is considered a war crime. At one time, most medics were unarmed, making the role popular with those who were unwillingly drafted into the army. As some combat groups do attempt to injure even non-combat members of opposing armies, even medics are typically now armed.
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