Training with new, state-of-the-art mannequins is safer than sticking your battle budy with a needle
February 21, 2012
Darkness envelops the Soldiers as they try to maneuver to a wounded Soldier. A gunfight blares through the smoke, and they see pools of blood on the ground. More blood appears as they round the corner.
These Soldiers aren't in Afghanistan or Iraq or even at the Army Medical Department's home of Fort Sam Houston, Texas. They're at a Medical Simulation Training Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, one of 18 in the Army that provide realistic Combat Life Saver training. The specialized mannequins the centers use are able to simulate shortness of breath, lost appendages and loss of blood, allowing Soldiers to train in actually dressing a wound properly before deploying downrange.
Sgt. 1st Class Warren Wright, the NCO in charge at the Fort Bliss medical simulation center, said the training is critical to helping Soldiers learn CLS tasks properly before they deploy.
"The best benefit from this training is that they can get in and see exactly what it takes before they get into combat," Wright said.
The alternative to the Medical Simulation Training Center is to have Soldiers "treat" each other. This kind of training, though, is oftentimes improperly done. Soldiers can't bandage each other correctly because applying that much pressure can cause bruises or broken bones.
The medical simulation center's mannequins can also have needles stuck in them and can simulate what would happen when a Soldier gives prescription drugs or administers an IV to someone who has suffered various injuries in combat.
The CLS course is a bridge between what is taught at basic training and the medical training a combat medic receives. Because, for example, administering an IV is no longer part of basic training, every Soldier is no longer Combat Life Saver-trained when leaving basic. In addition to certifying Soldiers in Combat Life Saver skills, the Medical Simulation Training Center also certifies 68W combat medics. Certification is required for both twice a year. Last year, the Fort Bliss Medical Simulation Training Center trained 4,080 students.
Soldiers certified in CLS are trained to address the point of injury, care under fire and tactical combat casualty care. In addition, they become familiar with what's in a typical combat care bag as they go through this training.
"The Soldiers can see the equipment," Wright said. "They can see what's in the bag and how to use it. They can become familiar with the tools they'll have at their disposal when they go downrange."
The Medical Simulation Training Center also addresses the two biggest causes of preventable death on the battlefield: hemorrhaging and tension pneumothorax (trapped air or gas between the lung and the chest wall).
"Commanders and first sergeants really see the value added benefit of combat life savers," Wright said. "They are a force multiplier, and oftentimes commanders want 100 percent of their Soldiers to be combat life savers. The Army usually focuses on beans and bullets, but now we're looking more into blood and guts."