By Sgt. Jon Soles, MND-B PAOSeptember 21, 2009
BAGHDAD - Iraqi Security Forces are on the front lines when it comes to defending the Iraqi people, but the first responders - firefighters and emergency medical technicians - are on the front lines of public safety.
Medics from the 1st Cavalry Division are training Iraq's first responders to become better lifesavers through medical training courses held at Joint Security Station Ur in Sadr City.
"This course is designed to improve their quality of care for their future patients and improve their lifesaving skills," said Staff Sgt. Chris Howell, a medic assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who taught a round of first aid classes in April. "They were receptive and wanted to continue the training. I've been teaching the last three weeks on American EMT skills."
About a dozen Iraqi firefighters and EMTs, all dressed in navy blue jumpsuits, formed a semicircle around Howell, here, Sept. 17, as the Copperas Cove, Texas, native gave a course in lifesaving techniques for infants and small children. No CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) dummy was available so the Iraqis brought a baby doll about the size of a real infant. Howell cradled the doll and showed the Iraqis how to check and clear the airways of a choking infant. His movements were made with gentleness and finesse, in proportion to a tiny patient. After going over techniques for checking respiratory distress and clearing airway obstructions, it was the Iraqis' turn. The Iraqis took turns demonstrating the same techniques with the doll. Howell, as well as the other Iraqi EMTs, gave critiques to each other.
"You guys have to know it by heart. Remember, children die quicker than adults," Howell said to the Iraqis, highlighting the sense of urgency in saving a life.
According to Howell, the Iraqi first responders are good pupils who have accepted the training as a means to make themselves better lifesavers.
"They're highly motivated, very intelligent and very eager to learn," Howell said. "When I teach these guys they stop me and ask 'why' or 'explain this.' "
Howell said the training went beyond simple lifesaving techniques. As an instructor, he said he is also trying to teach the Iraqis a different way to treat emergencies.
"The medical system of their society is to put the patient in a truck and take them to the hospital with no form of triage or management," said Howell. "They do not distinguish between an emergency and a non-emergency."
Howell said he hopes to instill in the Iraqis the American mindset that first responders provide immediate care and help determine the level of the patient emergency. Howell emphasized practice and rehearsal will improve lifesaving skills.
"It's just going to take repetition, repetition, repetition until they master the skills," said Howell. "It's not for us, it's for the benefit of the people."
Howell's training was interrupted, however, when the Iraqi rescue commander received a call to a real emergency in Sadr City - a fire at a gas station. With the training ISF first responders they are receiving from the American medics, the Iraqis are working to be better equipped to handle emergencies, ensuring a more stable future for Iraq.