CLS course changes impact Patriot Brigade Soldiers
July 9, 2010
- Fort Polk's 4-10 Soldiers set new standards
FORT POLK, La. -- It's a regular occurrence in the Army for units to conduct Combat Life Saver classes, certifying Soldiers to administer initial medical aid to their buddies on the battlefield. However, CLS course standards, and even how they are taught, have changed.
Patriot Brigade medics taught some of their fellow "Dagger Battalion" Soldiers from 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, the new standards during a CLS class at Fort Polk June 14-18. Spc. Meagan Cosper, a 4th BSTB health-care specialist, commonly referred to as a combat medic, explained the biggest difference.
"The main change is the IVs (intravenous fluids)," said Cosper. "It came down from the general surgeon that we do not teach IVs ... in the CLS or any other classes. Only medics are allowed to do IVs, or (other) medical personnel."
Reasons for this include the possibility of Soldiers focusing on dehydration ahead of treating serious or life-threatening injuries and Soldiers giving casualties the wrong types of fluids, explained 4th BSTB combat medic Pfc. Kevin Flynn. In some cases, a Soldier coming to the aid of a comrade actually can cause more injuries or death, he said.
"Someone gets shot in the leg and they would have arterial bleeding, then they (battle buddies) would ... try to get an IV in first before they would try to put a tourniquet on," said Flynn. "(Also) if you give fluids to somebody who has a head injury or something like that, it can cause intracranial pressure, which causes them to get brain damage and die."
With IVs removed from the curriculum, CLS instructors have more time to focus on class materials that remain part of the course.
Everything medics teach in CLS classes is important for Soldiers to learn, but 4th BSTB instructors said the Army has placed special emphasis in two particular areas in accordance with the new standards.
"We have criteria of what we need to teach and what they need to learn, but if they (learn) how to put a tourniquet on and treat tension pnuemothorax (air or gas in the chest or pleural space that collapse lungs) then they are good -- pretty much," said Cosper. "(The Army) wants them (CLS certified-Soldiers) to know everything else, but they need them to focus on those two things, because those are the main injuries that happen over there (in current deployment environments)."
Other changes to Army CLS standards include the omission of methods for treating cold and heat injuries and emplacing splints, said Coster.
Dagger Soldiers going through the CLS course appreciate the changes and believe the training is beneficial.
"I re-classed from infantry. The more detail you know, the less nervous you are when you actually have to do it (perform CLS)," said Sgt. Andrew Reser, 4th BSTB military policeman, who commented that it is a benefit to have the additional knowledge. "Now you ... are more prepared for the worst (case injuries)."
The first day of CLS consisted of medics giving classroom presentations to the Soldiers. On the second day, instructors demonstrated life-saving techniques and showed Soldiers how to properly apply hasty-and-deliberate tourniquets and head wraps. The third day, the Soldiers practiced applying techniques and knowledge they acquired the day before, keying in on the head-to-toe method of checking a wounded Soldier.
"One thing they teach you is a full-body check," said Spc. Webster Metts, a Dagger MP. "You go from head to toe, checking in the eyes and ears for bruising ... check for pools of blood on the arms ... down the torso ... all the way down to the legs then at the ankles. (First though,) you check for alertness, you ask them if they're OK, (to see) if they are able to respond to verbal (communication)."
Pfc. Allen Crider, a 4th BSTB combat medic, explained that CLS students do not have to check casualties in a specific order as long as they cover the entire body. When a Soldier finds an injury and determines it to be life threatening, however, instructors teach them to treat it right away before searching the casualty for additional injuries, he said.
The CLS students underwent field evaluations on the fourth day of the course. The Soldiers selected partners and went to work.
"With the old CLS, it was more like 'this is how you do this (and) this is how you do that,'" said Cosper. "In this CLS, we talk more about why you need to do this and what would happen if you don't do it."
During their field evaluations, Soldiers had to prove proficiency using different types of litters to evacuate wounded Soldiers during a battlefield scenario. Some CLS participants said this task is important to them because they might be called upon to evacuate wounded Soldiers during an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan later this year.
The class ended with a 40-question exam. To pass the course, Soldiers could only miss seven questions. However, when called upon to save a life for real -- when the true CLS skills test comes during a deployment -- the newly certified Daggers think they will be ready.
"Anything they taught us this week is definitely something that you need as a Soldier ... downrange (while deployed) especially," said Sgt. Nicholas Iafelice, an MP assigned to 4th BSTB. "When you are down there in the thick of it ... it is going to be a big deal. When it comes down to it, you need to know how to do these things to save your friends' lives, or to attempt to do your best to make sure that they stay alive as long as possible."