Signal soldiers learn combat medical skills
December 17, 2013
FORT GORDON, Ga. - Army Reservists assigned to the 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade participated in a three-day Combat Lifesaver Course November 19 - 21 at the Regional Training Site-Medical on Fort Gordon. Soldiers from Ohio, North Carolina and Maryland joined local troops in learning how to treat and evacuate casualties effectively on the battlefield.
Spc. Jacob Hamby, a combat documentation and production specialist with the 982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne), said it is good to have soldiers perform medical duties in training or combat.
"If we are going to be out in the field doing stuff, [CLS training] is definitely something I want to stay sharp with," said Hamby, a Raleigh, N.C., native, who served in El Salvador earlier in 2013.
Trainers focused on hemorrhage control, opening airways, and treating/relieving tension pneumothorax (known as a collapsed lung). The training manual stated around 90 percent of combat deaths occur on the battlefield before casualties reach a medical treatment facility. The manual also reported that self-aid, buddy aid and combat lifesaver skills could have reduced battlefield deaths by 15 to 18 percent in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The combat lifesaver is a bridge between the first aid training all soldiers receive during basic training and the medical training given to the combat medic. Bryan Curry, an instructor with RTS-Medical, said troops are taught to respond quickly to life-threatening injuries.
"The medical field has a term we call 'the golden hour'," said Curry. "It's the first hour or less from a soldier's point of injury to definitive care (emergency room). Combat lifesavers are THE medical assets to squad- and platoon-level elements . . . their performance and skills are critical-pivotal-to any rescue effort on the battlefield."
Students learned the three phases of tactical combat casualty care: care under enemy fire, tactical field care and tactical evaluation care (medical evacuation and casualty evacuation). Learning how to thoroughly assess a casualty's wounds, treat for shock, deal with head and neck injuries, and how to properly prepare a casualty for movement were some of the drills students received pass or fail results (go/no-go).
Pfc. Dustin Bowers, an information technology specialist with the 490th Tactical Installation Network-Expeditionary, said it was really nice to get some practical hands-on training.
"In case we go to the range or land navigation, I will know what to do to help a casualty," said Bowers, a Newark, Ohio, native, whose training opportunities are limited because his unit is currently deployed in Afghanistan.
Trainers made it clear to soldiers that situational awareness should be the highest priority when trying to assess and help a fallen comrade. Instructor Nedrick Brooks explained a soldier's priority in combat is to fire at and defeat the enemy. He said that troops attempting to rescue a fellow soldier fail at the task because they panic or don't have a measured approach.
"Our students are soldiers who normally won't see this type of activity," said Brooks. "They have the added pressure of being calm under duress and have to find a balance. Applying our lessons with hands-on testing familiarizes students with injuries and offers a greater chance for success."
Spc. Demario Freels, a mechanic with the 324th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, participated and was certified for the third consecutive year. The Atlanta resident said units need to place a greater emphasis on certifying more soldiers as combat lifesavers.
"Right now, I believe I am the only certified soldier in my unit, which has over 100 members," said Freels. "This position has perishable skills - if you are not regularly [practicing recovery drills], your skill level diminishes."