FORT POLK, La. -- The old adage, “You learn something new everyday,” is true for everyone, but when it comes to medics, those words could be the difference between life and death.
That’s why Staff Sgt. Cameron Reeves, Bayne Jones Army Community Hospital education noncommissioned officer in charge, applied to get the Delayed Evacuation Casualty Management course at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk about six months ago. The first five-day course was held on Fort Polk Aug. 2-6.
The Army’s focus, according to Army Medicine, is shifting to large-scale combat operations in future battlefields. This type of training is a priority because the ability to treat casualties at the point of injury and quickly evacuate them to a higher level of care are luxuries predicted to be limited in future conflicts.
“Basically, what the training does is teach 68W combat medics what to do after tactical combat casualty care is over, evacuation is delayed and we are unable, for whatever reason, to get the wounded Soldiers to advanced care,” said Reeves.
The DECM training covers 32 hours of both didactic lessons and advanced procedural skills including an autologous blood transfusion lab, bladder catheterization and chest tube thoracostomy.
DECM provides the skills needed to manage casualties after the three phases of tactical combat casualty care are over, as well as training and equipping medics with the capability to sustain a casualty in a place where little to no medical support beyond the combat medic is available, said Army Medicine.
“With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we owned the air, so we had tremendous success in getting casualties evacuated within the golden hour to higher care,” Reeves said. “This is a new skill for 68W. With the potential for future wars being against someone that has the same advantages in the air, medics might have to sit on casualties for days or weeks before we are able to get them to higher care.”
Reeves said if medics don’t know how to care for their injured Soldiers past initial care, those Soldiers could die.
“It’s incredibly important to know how to sustain them as long as needed before they go to higher care,” he said.
Reeves said he has also been trying to incorporate rotational Soldiers in the training.
“COVID-19 has made that a challenge, but we are starting to get rotational Soldiers in our classes,” he said. “Two Soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard that were here for the previous the Joint Readiness Training Center rotation are currently taking the class, as well as medics from the 115th Field Hospital and Geronimo medics.”
Aug. 6 was the last day of the class. With classes over, medics were set to put what they learned into action.
Medics met in a wooded location adjacent to a building on North Fort Polk. They got their medical supplies in order, mimicked the actions of getting to injured Soldiers (plastic manikin) in a battlefield situation and began treating the “injuries” listed in the in the scenario. Once stabilized, they loaded their two “injured” Soldiers on stretchers and did a ruck march to a higher echelon medical aid station — in this case the Joint Readiness Training Center Rear Aid Station.
Once they reached the aid station, the medics switched to operative experience manikins — an advanced robotic manikin able to breath, have a heart beat, blink and more. The manikins were preprogrammed with the same list of injuries that had already been treated in the field. The difference being the real world vital signs being remote controlled by an operator with an iPad in their hands.
Sgt. Jonathan Harris, 3rd Battalion, 353rd Infantry Regiment, medical noncommissioned officer in charge and one of the Soldiers operating a remote control, said the manikins belong to the 353rd and they were happy to use them to help better train the medics taking the DECM class.
“Based on the injuries that are part of the training, as the medics treat their Soldier, we can adjust the manikins vitals according to the treatments they provide. As long as the medics are doing something correctly, we can match that according to the vital signs. If they get something wrong, we make the vital signs drop,” he said.
Harris said it’s vital to get as close as possible to a real world situation.
“Working on an injury in a hospital setting after the initial battlefield point of injury is vital to a medic’s training,” he said.
Pfc. A.J. Moody, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment said he wanted to take part in the training to learn skills to better take care of his guys.
“They depend on us to keep them alive. If they can’t depend on us, what good are we as medics,” he said.
Moody said battle situations down range are changing.
“If we have to keep an injured Soldier with us until we can get them to advanced care, we have to know how to best do that. That’s what this training is about,” he said.
Moody said as part of the medic training, they learn things they need to know, but don’t always know how to tie them together to make proper and important decisions.
“I think this training has given us the skills to make those connections and an idea of what it’s like to help a Soldier from injury to hospital with real world experience,” he said.
Sgt. Anthony Ryan, 142nd Area Support Medical Company, Connecticut National Guard, was one of the rotational Soldiers taking part in the medic training.
Ryan said the class was a great opportunity to further his training.
“Training like this opens your mind when it comes to providing care for Soldiers. There are a lot of medical skills we can continue learning on our journey to becoming good medics and saving Soldiers,” he said.
Ryan said he plans to take the knowledge he learns here back to share with his unit.
Reeves said every 68W should take this class.
“I just want everybody to know it’s available and to contact me if they are interested,” he said.
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