Camp Barkeley – Medical Replacement Training Center, Texas (PDF)



A Medical Soldier Trains ……. Located on the rolling plains of central West Texas, near the City of Abilene, this largest Medical Replacement Training Center in the world has been turning out top-notch medical soldiers since it opened in December, 1941. This is one of the most vital activities of the Medical Department, Army Service Forces. Commanding the MRTC is Brig. Gen. Roy C. Heflebower, veteran medical officer. The modern medical soldier must be rugged and in tip-top physical condition. He must be able to assimilate and retain the teachings of his instructors. He must be a tactician, able to think and act on the split second that may be the difference between life and death for both himself and his patient. The medic must be fearless, with the courage to go out on the field of battle unarmed, to give “service above self” in the tradition of the Medical Department. It is in striving towards these and many other ends that the trainee spends his time in class and out in the field at the Medical Replacement Training Center. The accent in MRTC is on physical conditioning, rigorous road marches of the “Commando Training” type, daily exercises to develop neglected muscles. This is besides the classes that include such subjects as military courtesy, chemical warfare, anatomy and physiology, organization of the Army, communications, map reading, sanitation, logistics (movement of troops and supply), and “first aid” treatment. All these and more are woven into the program, and at the same time, the trainee is kept in touch with what is going on in the world through lectures and sound training films on current events and actual war scenes. He has at least an hour of drill a day, at least four or five marches a week, starting out at four miles in two hours and speeding up to four miles in 45 minutes (halts included) on the short hikes, and nine miles in two hours, 16 miles in four hours, and 25 miles in eight hours on the longer jaunts. That’s the schedule, and they do it, toting packs weighing upwards of 45 pounds. Then there are night problems, setting up and camouflaging medical installations at night, seeking out, treating and transporting patients by litter in the stygian blackness, under simulated battle conditions. There are two exacting obstacle courses, one negotiated on foot with full pack, and the other by litter teams carrying patients through a maze of barriers, and a hasty entrenchment area where the trainee learns to increase his speed in diving into a trench, fox-hole or other cover from air or ground attacks. Trainees are given a rigid course in “Hand-to-Hand Combat,” to protect themselves in case of personal attack, and they become accustomed to gun-fire by negotiating the infiltration course, crawling 120 yards on their stomachs with 30-calibre machinegun bullets whizzing inches overhead. “Acid test” for the trainee, besides the tests he has received and been graded on in his daily classroom and field work, is the bivouac near the end of his training period. Equipped with full packs, the trainees hike 16 miles out to the bivouac area and live and operate under simulated battle conditions. They sleep under camouflage, walk under camouflage and set up their medical installations under camouflage. Here every phase of their basic training is brought into play in a “mock-battle”. Somewhere, sometime, probably as long ago as World War I, someone remarked that the medical soldier had a “soft touch”, they called him a “pill-roller” and scoffed because he handed no firearms. The utterance had its inevitable echo, and it was still in existence at the start of this war. Soldiers carrying arms were still mocking the medic, but it is fast diminishing, since Pear! Harbor, since Bataan, Corregidor, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy, and all along the battle line. Reports have found their way back from the fronts, from experienced medical officers, infantry and field artillery officers, men of the Air Corps, from casual observers and direct quotations from experienced foreign correspondents, the medics are doing a courageous, splendid job over there. “The medics have done a better job than any department of the army,” said Frank Hewlett, United Press war correspondent who was at New Guinea. It’s “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day” in the MRTC, and trainees have learned, among other things, that it takes strength and skill to be a medical soldier in the United States Army.