By Sgt. Paul Monroe, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne DivisionMarch 4, 2009
FORT CAMPBELL, KY - Soldiers with the 2nd "Strike" Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, completed the Emergency First Responder course here Feb. 26.
The EFR course is the 101st Airborne Division's version of the Army combat lifesaver course designed to teach Soldiers the basic skills necessary to save lives on the battlefield.
With the Division and its subordinate units having been deployed between Iraq and Afghanistan off and on for the last eight years, they have learned first responders in combat are very important.
Sgt. Megan Caswell, a medic with 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and now an instructor within the course, could not agree more.
"The first responder decides whether a person lives depending on what measures they take," said Caswell.
The goal of the class is to have Soldiers be able to provide the initial care for their buddies or themselves in order to increase the chances of survivability on the battlefield should they become wounded.
Soldiers learned how to control bleeding, give CPR, and went over basic first aid during the four-day course.
"The medic is not always the first on the scene," said Spc. Kelly Molitor, a medic with 2nd BSTB. "Everyone needs to know their role and play their part until medical personnel can be there."
During basic training, Soldiers are trained on fundamental first aid techniques. EFR training provides an intense, hands-on experience that melds the basic principals used by emergency medical technicians with those fundamentals.
The course is usually memorable for Soldiers, since for most it is the first time they will administer intravenous fluids to a live patient.
Spc. Rhys McMahon, a combat engineer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BSTB, remembers the class for one other reason. He took it before.
McMahon originally took part in the class to recertify the skills he had learned prior to deployment, and his experiences as a deployed Soldier may have helped to make the class more realistic.
His unit traveled roughly 20,000 kilometers during route clearance missions to ensure the safety of Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers and northwest Baghdad's citizens who traveled the roads daily.
He described the training as "life dependent."
During the deployment his convoy was struck by an explosively formed projectile. One Soldier was seriously wounded. Due to the Soldier's location in the convoy a medic was not the first on the scene.
McMahon said that the actions of first responders saved a life that day.
"Everything we trained to do helped save his life," said McMahon.
It's an experience he shared with the class during open discussion.
New Soldiers like Pvt. Agostino Salvati, with Company A, 2nd BSTB, who has been in the Army for just six months, seemed to benefit from these shared experiences.
"[The class] prepares you for what you are about to see," he said. "Their stories make you take it serious."
McMahon said he learned something else during that EFP strike that Soldiers should learn.
"Learn this stuff so that it's muscle memory, so when you find yourself in that situation you do it without thinking."
The Strike Brigade will continue to train or recertify all of its Soldiers in order to make every Soldier an Eagle First Responder.