By Pvt. Jared Eastman, 1st BCT Public AffairsAugust 29, 2008
FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Night falls all too quickly at Evans Army Air Field as medics from 1st Brigade Combat Team carry "wounded" Soldiers and civilians across the wet grass. Rain doesn't stop the medics as they reach a secure location and start inspecting their patients.
"Hurry up!" An instructor yells in a Soldier's ear, "Do you want your buddy to die'"
The Soldier quickly applies a tourniquet to the patient's right leg as mock-gunfire fills the night air outside the "glass house." The Soldier lies over the patient, protecting him and waits for the shots to end before continuing. He waits longer than usual, maybe mistaking his thumping heartbeat for bullets. Then he continues on as if the whole thing never happened.
Medics have one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army. They risk life and limb, laying their weapon aside to bandage a fellow Soldier, trusting his comrades to cover his back the entire time. Medics from 1st BCT are more prepared then ever for their mission because of the Tactical Medic Course they participated in this past week.
"The course incorporates 52 hours and fine-tunes their tactical medical skill," said David Hall, president of Rescue Training Incorporated, which runs the Tactical Medic Course. The course not only prepares the medics for deployment conditions but also for the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive consequence management response force mission they will be taking up as of October. The CCMRF mission will assist and respond in the event of a major attack or natural disaster.
RTI trains both military and SWAT medics, says Hall. "A combat medic always has a tactical way of thinking, while civilian medics don't usually think about the combat part. While we train civilians, we focus more on the tactical side of the course, while for Soldiers, who began their career thinking about tactics, we focus more on advanced medical skills."
The week-long course involved night and day missions and classes centered around tactical medical practices.
"The training is very effective; it's probably the best training I've had in my entire career in the Army," said Spc. Brandon Brooks, a 5/7 CAV medic. "I've been training with combat support hospitals, so everything has been about medical situations inside a hospital. So being out here in a tactical environment has been a lot better. I feel this has helped a lot for preparing with deployment."
But the course wasn't always available at Fort Stewart, says Staff Sgt. Joel Buchannan, on of the first Soldiers to go through the training. "I initially was looking for additional training when I first came to Fort Stewart. I didn't feel we were really well equipped for what was going on in Iraq, so I went online looking for additional training and found RTI."
The course would change his squad into a better team, producing a well-oiled machine that was fast and effective.
"I went through the course with four other Soldiers," said Buchannan. "When we came back our team worked with such speed and accuracy that the platoon sergeant was like, 'wow, what happened over there'' and we got the entire platoon to go through the course. After we watched how each squad had improved in unit cohesion we decided it was something we wanted to do for all our new Soldiers."
An important aspect of the training, says Buchannan, is that the instructors are all prior service military.
"By going to civilians for training who are prior-military, I think that it has given them a better perspective. As opposed to usual training, where instructors are worried about head-counts, standing in formation and what time chow is, the one thing I've noticed about these instructors is that they will cut time out of lunch based on the rhythm of the training. They don't want to stop training," said Buchannan. "Team cohesion because of this is exponentially higher."
Another important aspect is how progressive the instructors are. The medical field is constantly changing, whether it is through new equipment or new conditions in which the equipment is used in.
"A lot of the things we teach the SWAT medics are things we learned from the military. Because Soldiers use the tools more often and they know what will hold up in harsh conditions," said Hall.
"The medic field is very progressive and these instructors were up to date on the latest procedures and equipment, but a lot of the basics haven't changed," said Buchannan. "The instructors stay progressive, medically, equipment-wise and personnel-wise and that is important."
The combat medics, who are used to more restrictive parameters in training environments, welcomed the course said Buchannan. "I'm glad the military is taking an objective look outside the normal parameters of training. Usually training is 'check-the-block' were instructors are more focused on standards they have to meet, and they have very restrictive parameters. TRADOC is an excellent organization, but there are other ways out there."
Every Soldier that entered the course graduated. These Soldiers are more prepared then they were before for what lies ahead. Whether it will be helping a burned citizen from a wildfire or a wounded Soldier on the battlefield.
Medical practices are constantly evolving, becoming more refined through practice and fine-tuning over the years. Although the environment may change, medics need to be prepared for any situation. With this training they are one step closer to accomplishing that goal.