In many situations, quick medical intervention can save lives, and in many cases, military paramedics are the first to arrive on the scene and provide emergency treatment. This is the story of how young Israelis become certified, capable paramedics in the IDF (Zahal).
IDF (Zahal) paramedics have a tremendous amount of responsibility. They have to be prepared to perform field operations and stabilize wounded soldiers until they are evacuated to a hospital. As part of the fighting force, they have to be as well-versed in combat as they are in medicine. Corporal Labiv Voby, the second ever Druze paramedic in the IDF (Zahal), and Corporal Tigisat Yatmano, the first ever Ethiopian paramedic in the IDF (Zahal), are two of the forty paramedics who recently completed their 15-month training.
Corp. Voby will never forget the event that sparked his interest in becoming a paramedic. Before enlisting in the IDF (Zahal), Corp. Voby witnessed a catastrophic car accident. He rushed to the vehicle and attempted to help the passengers, but since he lacked medical experience, there was not much he could do. When they arrived at the hospital, one of the passengers was pronounced dead and the others were gravely injured.
Training to Save Lives
Becoming a paramedic is a long process. Training starts with an intense four-month pre-military course in which the soldiers learn how to provide basic medical treatment. “It was four months packed with various studies,” said Corp. Yatmano. “Every week started with an exam about what we had learned the week before.”
After the soldiers draft and complete their basic training, they start shifts in hospitals and in Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent to the Red Cross. Accompanied by senior paramedics, the soldiers learn how to treat patients. “I remember one time when I brought a gun shot victim to the hospital in critical condition,” said Corp. Voby. “After the drama was over the doctor who was in charge of the emergency room took me aside and said: ‘Well done. You’re going to be an incredible paramedic.’ It is amazing to see how much influence we have and how important our job is.”
After they gain the necessary experience, the soldiers move onto the last stage of their training which takes place in the IDF (Zahal)’s Military Medical School.
“My Brother’s Keeper”: Paramedics and Their Patients
In order to officially become paramedics, soldiers must learn how to treat patients in the most extreme conditions, and situations. The cadets must complete a final exercise in which they practice evacuating and treating wounded soldiers in an urban area under heavy fire. “During the exercise, I proved to myself that I could do anything I would be required to do on the battlefield,” said Corp. Voby. “I can be a doctor or a fighter, lead the force or help in the back.”
Once they complete their training, the paramedics are integrated in battalions, brigades, elite units and mobile intensive care units. They will have the responsibility to protect Israel in combat while treating the wounded on the battlefield. “I was with the team of paramedics who arrived at the scene of the recent car ramming in Jerusalem,” tells Corp. Yatmano. “We reached the patient and immediately saw that he had grave injuries and was unconscious. When we reached the hospital I suddenly realized that he was wearing a Border Police uniform. All of a sudden I understood that he was a soldier, and it occurred to me that the patients I was going to treat were going to be soldiers, perhaps even my friends.”
At the graduation ceremony, the new paramedics took the honorable oath of the Medical Corps: “My brother’s keeper I shall always be”. For these 40 young men and women these words are not just a catchphrase, rather a way of life.