By Tim Shannon, First Army division East Public AffairsApril 16, 2012
If you've ever seen a war movie, you've witnessed this familiar call from a wounded Soldier or Marine: "Medic!" But who are these brave warriors who risk their own safety to care for their wounded comrades-in-arms? And who ensures those medics and combat lifesavers receive the training they need to confidently and competently care for injured Soldiers?
Ensuring mobilized Reserve Component Soldiers receive realistic, mandatory medical training prior to their deployment requires First Army training support brigades to coordinate closely not only with the Army's Medical Command but also to stay current on current theater conditions.
Combat lifesavers are non-medical Soldiers who provide life-saving measures as a secondary duty if their primary or combat missions allow. The Combat Lifesaver is a bridge between the self-aid/buddy-aid or first-aid training given to all Soldiers during basic training and the advanced medical training given to the combat medic.
First Army Division East's medical training for mobilized Soldiers has evolved to support the changing threats of Overseas Contingency Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other theaters of operations including Kosovo and the Horn of Africa.
"We do not have cookie cutter training," explained 158th Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Christopher Forbes. The 158th Inf. Bde., is First Army Division East's training support brigade at Camp Shelby Joint ForcesnTraining Center, Miss. "We went out of the way to get the right training." Trainer/mentors assigned to the 158th Inf Bde, oversee all deployment training for Reserve Component Soldiers mobilized there.
In the classroom portion of the course, Soldiers learn from First Army Division East trainers a variety of medical procedures, such as how to use the combat application tourniquet, open and maintain airways, treat a sucking chest wound, use combat gauze, call in a nine-line medical evacuation or medevac request and how to use different techniques to evacuate casualties.
Knowing how to properly tie a tourniquet or treat a sucking chest wound on the battlefield is often times, the difference between life and death.
Although the course is called Combat Lifesavers and focuses heavily on the life saving steps and controlling bleeding, Trainers don't ignore the Soldier's primary duties. By combining Soldier's tactical and technical skills with medical training, First Army provides combatant commanders Soldiers trained and ready for any situation, regardless of their mission.
"They're Soldiers and shooters first," explained Master Sgt. Linda Smith, 2-351 Infantry Battalion, 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, noncommissioned officer in charge of the classes. "They have to do that mission first."
Smith and fellow trainer/mentors conduct approximately 30 classes a year at Camp Shelby.
Recently, trainers from First Army Division East certified 71 Soldiers assigned to the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York National Guard, as combat lifesavers prior to their deployment. Training occured at Camp Shelby's Bobcat Village and combined the Soldier's medical and tactical skills.
"The 27th has had the best training for MACE (Military Acute Concussion Evaluation) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)," said Forbes. "We have given extensive field training in the lanes and in the FTX (Field Training Exercise). The training the 27th has received has been world class. We think this will be one of the best trained units ever."
Forbes added that that recent additions to training lanes have added a sense of realism to the training that could be the difference between life and death for Soldiers on patrol in rural Afghanistan.
"They use pyrotechnics like smoke grenades and artillery simulators to add realism to the lanes and put the Soldiers on edge," said Smith. "This in turn improves reaction time and creates muscle memory making actions automatic and saving valuable seconds when treating casualties."
Forbes also saw a need for more realism in the training.
"Their (the 27th) training had to be more intense. We're increasing obstacles with night driving, gunnery firing from the MATV (Mine resistant ambush protected [MRAP], All-terrain Vehicles) platform," said Forbes. "In the past, it was only the Humvee platform. We brought in route clearing equipment. The 27th not only simulated route clearing, we have actually given the unit the chance to be hands-on with the equipment and setting a real world environment."
Staff Sgt. Samuel Ortiz of the 27th IBCT's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, explained actually hearing the explosions and screams got his adrenaline going, and was the right preparation for actual situations.
"That way, when we get out there, we won't be nervous," he said.
The Combat Medic course offered by First Army Division East is a qualification that any Soldier in the Army, regardless of rank, may attain.
"They put lower enlisted Soldiers in charge of squads on the training lanes, because when there are casualties to be treated, everyone needs to listen to a CLS-qualified Soldier, no matter what their rank is," said Smith. "We once had a brigadier general in one of our classes, and he got down on the ground and learned to treat the wounded just like everyone else."
Much of the training teaches Soldiers how to move in convoys and prepares them with the tools and experience needed to survive an explosion from an improvised explosive device.
"We make certain to train in case of a concussive event," stated Forbes. "Information and training is given to help Soldier's survive MRAP rollovers. Being in the blast radius, counter-insurgency, and route clearance -- there is a huge focus here."
First Army Division East, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., mobilizes, trains, validates, deploys and demobilizes Reserve Component troops. First Army Division East's eight brigades located across the eastern United States, provide intense training for mobilized Reserve Component Soldiers prior to their deployments into contingency operations. Training for each unit is tailored to meet specific deployment requirements in such areas as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Horn of Africa.