NATO’s ISTC SOF Medic Course

ISTC SOF Medic Course
U.S. SOF medic practices cleaning teeth during dental training in the ISTC SOF medic course. Dental care in austere environments (think UW) can be critical. (photo by SSG Jessica Nassirian, SOCEUR, February 1, 2018)

ISTC SOF Medic Course – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a number of special operations related courses that are conducted at a school in Pfullendorf, Germany. One of these courses conducted at the NATO International Special Training Center (ISTC) is the NATO Special Operations Combat Medical Course or NSOCM.

The 24-week long NSOCM prepares students to be able to implement over 160 NATO-recognized critical tasks in the treatment of trauma and non-trauma injuries and illness. Much of the time the SOF medics train to these skills in a tactical environment.

Injuries and wounds suffered by special operations forces personnel will likely happen in austere locations far removed from the ‘golden hour’ of medical evacuation. The SOF medics need to able to render a wide variety of lifesaving techniques to be able to meet the unique medical challenges that they will be faced with during SOF operations.

Clinical skills are a part of the training course. The students study clinical medicine as well as the treatment of battlefield injuries and wounds. Some special operations missions such as unconventional warfare (UW) will take place for prolonged periods of time (months) in denied areas with limited access to medical treatment. Learning tasks such as basic dental care (cleaning or pulling of teeth) can go a long way to ensuring a Solider’s health in an austere environment for long periods of time.

The commander of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) – Major General Mark Schwartz – made the following comment about the ISTC SOF medic course:

“Saving more lives in combat is the NSOCM foremost intent. As NSOCM equips SOF Medic Soldiers with more advanced abilities; they take away what they learned here at ISTC to build a collective capability from medical and non-medical SOF within their organic unit.”

Many NATO SOF units send their combat medics to the NATO medic course. Rear Admiral Jan Sommerfelt-Petterson, a specialist in public health from the Norwegian Armed Forces, says:

“Being a small country, Norway has used ISTC to train our solders for many years. We gain more from the quality of education ISTC provides. The crux of the matter is ISTC takes modern medicine and educates military operators on skills to bring to combat in areas where normal medical support is unavailable”.

Graduates of the ISTC SOF medic course earn the ISTC’s NATO credentials as well as a diploma and 60 applicable college credit hours.


NATO Special Operations Combat Medic (NSOCM) Course. This web page by the International Special Training Centre provides information on the scope, objectives, course length, program, eligibility, packing list, prestudy material, and additional information on the ISTC SOF medic course.

“Inaugural NATO Special Operations Combat Medic Course Graduates 23 Students at ISTC”, by Sgt Nelson Robles, SOCEUR PA,, March 23, 2017.

Much of the information for this story came from “SOF medics from 10 nations increase life-saving skills at ISTC”, by Sgt. Karen Sampson, U.S Special Operations Command Europe, March 9, 2018.


About John Friberg 201 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.