By Spc. Jennifer Spradlin, 16th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentDecember 5, 2010
MULTI NATIONAL BASE TARIN KOT, Afghanistan -- "I'm not doing this to scare you," Spc. Edwin Torres, a U.S. Army combat medic, tells the class of Afghan National Police (ANP) recruits as he pulls up a picture slideshow of graphic war wounds on his laptop. "But these are some of the injuries that you might see. This is what it really looks like. I'm going to show you the treatments they used, and you're going to be able to do this too."
For the new ANP recruits, familiarity with basic first aid skills can mean the difference between life and death. Each recruit at the Afghan National Police Training Center is required to attend combat-injury focused medical training prior to graduation.
"We really try to teach them the very basics of saving someone's life, which includes how to evaluate a casualty quickly and how to use tourniquets and pressure bandages to stop bleeding," said Torres, Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
Torres teaches an abbreviated version of the Combat Lifesaver Course utilized by the U.S. Army with a focus on practical, hands-on training. This class has 30 students, but he has taught as many 50 at once.
The task would be nearly impossible if not for the aid of the Afghan interpreters who speak both Dari and Pashtu. Present at every class, the interpreters have built up their own knowledge of first aid training and are instrumental during the small group lessons.
With only one day dedicated to medical training, Torres knows that he's responsible for establishing the base knowledge of how to stop bleeding. He urges the students to "train as they fight" and stay motivated.
"Tourniquets are the most effective treatment out here for trauma," said Torres. He teaches the students to use the Combat Application Tourniquet, the tourniquet used by all U.S. Forces, and then explains how to make a tourniquet from simple materials like a piece of cloth and a stick. The ANP recruits practice this skill over and over again, taking turns playing the casualty and the one administering care.
Once Torres is certain the students have mastered tourniquets, he moves into using the pressure bandages for injuries that are less severe and finally into basic splinting procedures. The class participation has been the best he has seen so far, and he's very impressed by how quickly they grasp the skills.
"This medical training is very good for not only me but all the students because it's very useful," said Matiullah. an ANP trainee. "The most important things I learned today were how to use the tourniquet and the bandage. At the moment I can use it in a good way. For example, when my mate or my partner gets injured I can help him."
Matiullah said that the hands-on training was good for the recruits because many of them were illiterate, but they were still able to learn the first aid they needed to help other police officers or civilians.
At the end of the training, Torres gives the class a thumbs-up and tells them how proud he is to be their instructor. He stays after for the ANP recruits to pose for pictures with him. Some of these students, he said, he will see again while on patrol with the 1-2 SCR and it gives him satisfaction to know he's setting them up for success.
"I feel really good helping out the ANP," said Torres. "They're going to be here long after we're gone. It's so important to pass off the skills that we know to them so that they can use them in the future."