Printed on: January 26, 2013

I.F. native named combat medic of the year

By Alex Stuckey
astuckey@postregister.com

Chris Hutchison gave up his high-paying job at the Department of Energy's desert site in 2006 to "get the bad guys."

The Idaho Falls native decided to join the military to "do something different, do something fun and do something many people don't get to do."

"Where else do you get paid to shoot guns and blow up stuff (and) jump out of airplanes?" Hutchison said.

The decision to leave his job with CH2M-WG Idaho LLC, contractor for the Idaho Cleanup Project, served him well.

Staff Sgt. Hutchison, 29, who serves with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was named the 2012 U.S. Army Special Operations Command Combat Medic of the Year.

The 1st Ranger Battalion is a highly trained and mobile reaction force for the U.S. Army.

"It's definitely an honor that I was selected and picked for it," Hutchison said. "But a lot of it is just doing the job we're trained for and prepared for."

Hutchison's superiors are not quite as modest.

"He's a great leader, a great mentor and well-respected by his peers and superiors," said Andrew Fisher, the battalion's senior physician assistant.

Hutchison's mom, Wanita, wasn't so keen on him joining the rangers at first.

"He came to (his father and I) and said what he was doing was a dead-end street and he really wanted to make a difference, but as a mom, I was immediately in tears," she said. "For a parent to be immediately OK with a child going off to war -- I don't think it's even possible."

But she quickly realized that's what, "God called him to do."

"He's found his niche," she said. "He loves what he does, he has a compassionate heart and he wants to help people all the time."

That eagerness to help people shone bright on a recent deployment to Afghanistan. Hutchison treated an Afghan national who had internal bleeding. He administered tranexamic acid, a clotting agent, saving the man's life.

This act made Hutchison the first combat medic to administer TXA in a combat situation.

"That, alone, made him well-deserving of this recognition," Fisher said.

Hutchison is about to deploy to Afghanistan for the sixth time. But medic wasn't the job he had in mind when he enlisted.

He planned to join the infantry, but at the time there were no infantry contracts available. A recruiter suggested he enter as a medic.

Hutchison was apprehensive at first.

"At first I was just thinking, 'Great, I won't be able to go out and shoot the bad guys,' " he said.

His initial thoughts were wrong. He gets to save lives and he operates right in the thick of the combat. It's also "fun."

Serving his country has not come without sacrifice. Hutchison spends a lot of time away from his wife and children in Savannah, Ga.

"The hardest part is being away from (them)," he said. "Watching my kids grow up without me, missing birthdays, little things ... it's kind of a bummer."

But no matter how difficult, Hutchison enjoys his job.

"It's just that there's not a lot of people in the world who get a chance to do what we do," he said. "I'm going to stick around for a little while."

Alex Stuckey can be reached at 542-6755. Comment on this story on Post Talk at www.postregister.com/post talk/.