First Army Lifesavers Prepare Sailors for Combat
April 10, 2013
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE DIX LAKEHURST, N.J.-- Sailors grunted, shouted commands and worked together as a team to carry 200-pound dummies under the barbed wire and dirt. Through the cloud of yellow smoke, horizontal figures emerged, helmets close to the ground, sweaty faces determined to get their "casualties" to safety.
"It's very realistic," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Burkholder, one of the sailors preparing to deploy with U.S. Navy Customs. "You've got the background noise, the bombs going off, and you have to take cover; you have to pull security and take care of your teammates out there."
Burkholder is one of approximately 40 sailors completing the final day of the 174th Infantry Brigade's Combat Lifesaver Course at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. During the course, service members learn how to administer care to those wounded in battle until they can get them to more highly-trained medical personnel and facilities.
The first three days of the course involve hands-on tactical combat casualty care training Medical mannequins replicating different kinds of wounds service members may encounter on the battlefield. Students are tested on human anatomy and how to treat casualties using first aid materials issued to all service members. Applying proper tourniquets and pressure dressings to stop and control the bleeding is a primary task. Using needle chest decompression techniques and nasopharyngeal airways (NPAs) is also a priority.
The final evaluation consists of a field exercise with three different scenario lanes that all teams must successfully navigate.
Success here means getting through the course while constantly evaluating and treating casualties, moving those casualties through those lanes and their obstacles, providing security and continuously administering medical care to keep their casualties alive, said Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hansen, Trainer/Mentor with 1st Battalion, 314th Infantry Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade.
The Army's 174th Infantry Brigade Trainer/Mentors don't pull any punches when it comes to providing the trainees a dose of realism to keep them on their toes.
"We throw pyro; we yell; we shake them up a bit; get them a little nervous and jerky," said Hansen. "We can stretch them and make them start yelling at each other a little bit. It gives them an environment that's enough to really tax their abilities to easily communicate and interact."
It's in this realistic environment that service members learn not only combat lifesaving skills, but also leadership and teamwork skills applicable in a deployed environment.
"This lane was amazing," said Petty Officer 1st Class Sarah Payton, U.S. Navy Customs. "I learned a lot working together with the team and finding out the levels of stress people can take. It's good to know, because these are the people we're going to be with out in the field. It helps to see who's got it and who needs a little extra training."
The group of sailors comprising the U.S. Navy Customs team was joint sourced, like most Navy and Air Force teams here, bringing together individual augmentees from all over the country. Before beginning training at JB MDL, they had never worked together before.
"It's kind of like being on a ship," said Payton. "You throw a bunch of random individuals together and expect them to be close and put up with each other for six months to a year, so you learn how to get along with each other and work together effectively."
The sailors said they believe the training they received from the 174th Trainer/Mentors will go a long way in ensuring their combat readiness in Afghanistan.
"This is life saving training," said Payton. "This is imperative for the field, no matter what branch you're in. It's probably the best training we'll get right here, and I really appreciate the Army training the Navy. Joint training is imperative in this era. They've been there, and you get their expertise. You don't want to be trained for the ground by somebody who hasn't spent a whole lot of time on the ground."
These Trainer/Mentors have indeed had a lot of experience on the ground -- both in the military and in the civilian sector. Collectively, the 174th CLS Trainer/Mentors have more than 14 combat tours.
"I've been here for about two and a half years now, and I've been a combat medic for 16 years," said Hansen. "It's great working with these trainers. The cadre are all professionals, and they've been medics for more than a minute. We all care about what we do and care about delivering quality training. Nearly all of us are reservists, so we've deployed and worked in other military units, as well as in hospitals and clinics on the civilian side. It's motivating to be able to teach something that could make a real difference for one of the people here or their battle-buddies down range."
One of the biggest takeaways for trainees after the 40 hours of rigorous medical training and testing -- after the day-long culminating exercise, pushing their mental and physical limits, and being thrown into the fire to see if their new skills would prevail through the heat and the noise -- has to do with confidence.
"If anything were to happen to any of my buddies over there," said Burkholder, "I believe I'd be able to take care of them and keep them alive until they can get better care, and that's what it's all about."
First Army ensures mobilization training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater. First Army Division East directly supports the Chief of Staff of the Army's priority of providing trained, equipped and ready forces to win the current fight, while maintaining responsiveness for unforeseen contingencies.