Combat medical training keeps Rakkasans ready
October 17, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Rear-detachment Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) conducted combat life-saver training here Oct. 10 and 11 to maintain mission readiness within the unit.
"Some of the Soldiers that are here on [the rear detachment] are new to the Army or new to the unit, so they more than likely could be preparing to deploy," said Sgt. Antonio Rivera, the squadron's rear-detachment medical noncommissioned-officer-in-charge.
"If we train them and have them ready now, they will already have the knowledge and the skill set to deploy," he said.
One of the most essential types of training to prepare Soldiers for a deployment is combat life-saver training, says Rivera.
"The purpose of CLS is to better prepare our combat-arms Soldiers, or non-medical Soldiers, to help their battle buddies in the absence of their medics," he said.
"The first responders are typically the people that will save lives on the battle field."
Rivera said that combat-arms Soldiers provide the vast majority of life-saving treatment in combat because they are trained to alleviate some of the most deadly and time-sensitive injuries that frequently occur.
"I would say that anywhere from 70-80 percent of surviving casualties are treated by non-medical personnel because they are usually the first people on the scene," he said.
"Those are the first people that would stop the hemorrhaging, stop them from bleeding out or catch that sucking chest wound and seal it up in time to keep them from having a tension pneumothorax and dying from a lack of air. That first responder is the most critical person on the battlefield when it comes to saving lives."
One type of injury has proven to be especially devastating and leads to most combat fatalities, Rivera said.
"Hemorrhage is the number one killer of Soldiers on the battlefield," he said.
"If we teach them how to stop major bleeding, then we have a better chance of saving lives as opposed to the earlier wars when people would die from hemorrhaging from the extremities because of a lack of knowledge."
Specialist David Belmontes, a truck driver from D Troop and also one of the CLS trainees, said that he encountered a particular situation when he was deployed to Iraq in 2009 in which he used his CLS knowledge to assist with treating one of his battle buddies.
"The lead vehicle of my convoy swerved to avoid hitting a suspected [improvised explosive device] and it rolled over, landing in a ditch," Belmontes said.
"The gunner was ejected from the turret and landed on the road. My vehicle was the aid and litter truck, so we pulled up to the casualty and I dismounted with the medic; the gunner's leg had been severed just below the knee and he was bleeding heavily."
"Although the medic was applying the majority of the treatment to the casualty, I used the CLS training that she had taught me earlier to provide assistance," he said.
"I quickly located and prepared the proper medical supplies while she focused on applying treatment. Whenever she told me what equipment was needed, I knew exactly what she was talking about, where to find it and how to quickly prepare and assist with applying it."
"We were able to stop the bleeding fast enough to keep him alive; if I hadn't been CLS trained, I would have been useless to the medic and the casualty," Belmontes said.
"If I had not been able to assist the medic, it would have taken her much longer to treat the casualty, and he could have bled out -- that's when I realized how important CLS training really is."
Rivera said that the most important part of conducting CLS training is the last event, the trauma lane. This event functions as a test in which Soldiers must provide hands-on treatment to simulated casualties, displaying the knowledge they have gained from the training.
"I feel that when we teach them with the trauma lanes and actually make them experience a more stressful environment, it really teaches them and gives them a more hands-on type of training that most Soldiers appreciate more," he said.
Rivera also said that Soldiers need to be constantly conducting medical training in order to properly maintain combat readiness.
"I think there should be more research and units should do it more frequently like they do with weapons qualifications; the more you do it, the better you are at it," he said.
"It's the exact same way with medical training; if you don't do it, you lose it. I truly think they should take EFR (Eagle First Responder) and CLS as seriously as they take weapons qualifications and PT (physical training), because it really saves lives."