Combat Medics Prove Skills Under Pressure
A Soldier drives past the aftermath of the detonation of an improvised explosive device in Baghdad's southern Ghazaliya neighborhood last month. Army medics frequently find themselves helping casualties caused by IEDs.

BAGHDAD (Army News Service, May 7, 2007) - Army medics undergo countless hours of training before being certified, but for some healthcare specialists, the real "seal of approval" doesn't come from a certificate on graduation day. It comes from performing their job under the stress of combat.

A healthcare specialist at Joint Security Station Thrasher, Pfc. Tony Lawry said every opportunity he gets - whether lying on his cot or rolling in a convoy - he thinks about all the possible injuries he might encounter and how he'll react to them.

"The first time I saw something I reacted with training," said Pfc. Lawry. "It was exactly what I've trained to do hundreds of times in my head, on my buddies, on manikins."

On Saint Patrick's Day, when JSS Thrasher was only a couple of days old, the first challenge appeared in the form of a Soldier with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Although not the smartest of ideas, Pfc. Lawry ran from behind cover to get to the wounded Soldier.

"I rushed up, cut away his pants, found the wound, put the tourniquet on, gave him morphine and got him the hell out of there," said Pfc. Lawry, a member of the Fort Bliss, Texas-based 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment.

The victim had a "through and through," meaning the bullet went in one side and out the other.

"One of the first things medics learn is when someone is shot in the leg you just drop your knee there, jamming it on the artery," Pfc. Lawry said. "You'll stop the bleeding. If it hurts the patient, not doing any further damage, but is physically painful, you're probably doing it right."

Pfc. Lawry said that when medics are working on fellow Soldiers - one of their own - all they think about is getting them stable and evacuated.

"You don't think about your equipment; you don't think about your own safety," Pfc. Lawry said.

Medics at joint security stations work alongside Iraqi troops, sometimes helping mend local nationals or foreign troops. There is nothing predictable about their jobs.

"It's basically fly by the seat of your pants, moment's notice, 'Hey, we got casualties coming in' and you don't really know what's going on until they're right in front of your eyes," said Spc. Andrew Demma, the senior medic at the JSS, also with the 2nd Bn., 12th Cav. Regt.

The medics face death on a regular basis.

"I've ridden back to the Treatment Medical Center with a dead Soldier. I watched my best Army friend suffer from a chest wound on the way back to the TMC," Spc. Demma said.

They gradually grow immune to the potentially traumatic situations that fill their days.

"It's like any other thing in life - you get desensitized," said Spc. Demma. "Every once in a while you catch yourself thinking back after each incident and you just realize it's not bothering you as much. You don't dwell on it as much and as time goes by, you tend to go about your business a little quicker after each incident."

Spc. Demma and Pfc. Lawry agree that the fulfillment that comes with being a medic outweighs the bad parts of it.

Pfc. Lawry said a feeling of pride took over when a doctor told him he saved a Soldier's life.

"I felt like I finally had done my job," Pfc. Lawry said. "I can say I've been under fire treating a guy, and that makes it so that people listen to you more. I feel if someone listens to you, and respects what you're saying because you've been there and you've done it, you can do your job better."

(Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma writes for the 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.)

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 15:09