By Marie BerbereaMay 29, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. May 29, 2014 -- Right now, Soldiers take the Combat Life Saver course for the first time in Basic Combat Training. The Army is moving away from that and by September they will only focus on the basics while they're in basic.
"Three days of teaching these basic trainees CLS and for them to keep it and hold it and move on, they've got a lot of other things on their mind graduation, their first duty station, so the Army is focusing on getting them CLS at their main duty station," said Staff Sgt. William Chavez, 434th Field Artillery Brigade CLS instructor at Fort Sill.
Chavez and his fellow instructors run at least two batteries through the course a week. The trainees enter different emergency scenarios in which they have to low crawl, squeeze through tight spaces or climb over a wall while pulling security and ensuring the safety of their "casualty."
"A lot of this is focused on Afghanistan and Iraq. The knowledge and the know-how is a big help in this fight," said Chavez.
The trainees tackle the CLS course after first learning inside a classroom and becoming familiar with the techniques. Chavez said they take their CLS test, and those who pass have it in their enlisted records brief before they arrive at their first duty station.
"It's very important because of the time and the environments that we're in and the enemies that we're encountering. It's always good to have that familiarization with being a first responder."
Starting Sept. 1, trainees will learn the first six lesson plans of first aid in BCT from drill sergeants. The combat medics of 434th FA will still run the courses and oversee the medical training.
"I have seen many many changes in the military. I like to say they're all for the best lessons learned."
Although Chavez is an expert on CLS, he spent his first stint in the Army as a lightwheel mechanic.
When he returned to the military, he was asked if he was interested in the 68W military occupational specialty. At first he laughed at the notion, but decided it would be a challenge.
"They asked me do you want to be a combat medic. And, I was like, combat medic, I don't even know the difference between aspirin or Ibuprofen. My wife or my mom or my grandma will say 'Here you got a headache? Take this honey,' OK and I take it."
Chavez said he still uses his mechanic skills around his farm, but he feels being a medic is truly rewarding.
"That's the best feeling in the world is knowing you have an impact and somebody else is still walking around because of you. Whether it's you personally that did it or you trained somebody else and they actually did it."
After two combat tours in Iraq, Chavez said he saw firsthand how important maintaining training standards were in the medical clinics.
"I've got two combat tours in Iraq. Vehicles that were doing convoys would get hit or we would be mortared and they would bring the Soldiers and casualties into us," said Chavez. "If they were within my battalion, I trained them up and kept them training because I wanted them to know the basics so when I got a casualty, for the most part, they were properly taken care of. That made me feel good because I know I trained them. For the other battalions, I give kudos to whomever that medic was who trained them as well because they did a lot to help and save that life."
Chavez said whether it's himself and his fellow instructors teaching trainees or drill sergeants doing the training, it is important for Soldiers to know how to treat an injury immediately.
"Times are changing out there and these Soldiers need to be ready. Anything we can give them, any advice and if they just acknowledge just a couple sentences or words that came out of your mouth that helps them, that means a lot."