News: Guard combat medics undergo refresher course to hone skills
Story by 2nd Lt. Rebecca Linder
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Twenty-four South Dakota Army National Guard soldiers completed a combat medic refresher course hosted by the 2nd Battalion, 196th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) here Jan. 11. During the course, soldiers refreshed their medical skill sets and learned new treatments, tactics, techniques and procedures used both on and off the battlefield.
The 48-hour course, taught by soldiers of the 196th and several contractors of Computer Science Corp from the Regional Training Site Medical, of Fort McCoy, Wis., also allowed the combat medics to refresh their emergency medical technician licenses.
Each combat medic is required to have 72 hours of education every two years and is also required to maintain their EMT licenses. If soldiers fail to maintain their licenses, they lose their title as a combat medic.
“This is unique training and we are really focusing on two different skill sets – both civilian and military,” said Aaron Simpson, an instructor for the course and a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard. “I got in the National Guard in 1990 and once I came out of my initial training, we didn’t get any sustainment training. Therefore, if we ever had to apply our training in real life, I don’t think I would have felt as confident as a medic who just received this training.”
Not only was there instructional training during the course, but soldiers were validated on both their EMT and combat medic skills in a practical setting. Students were given several scenarios throughout the course, depending on the block of instruction, and then received hands-on testing to better understand what was taught.
“The skills these medics hold are invaluable to those around them and testing them practically is the best way to examine their knowledge in this environment,” said Simpson, who has been teaching the course for several years. “Oxygen therapy, intravenous infusion (IV therapy) and patient assessments are some of the EMT skills that are validated.”
“As a combat medic and an EMT with all these skills, I never know when I am going to need to use them. There is large range of injuries that a medic will see if deployed to Afghanistan and even here in the U.S.,” said Pfc. Elizabeth Bales, a student in the class. “You never know what you are going to come upon, so it is good to have a large range of skills that you know how to perform to keep a patient alive and to keep yourself safe while executing these duties.”
Each medic was also tested during a culminating event called a Table 8. The event tests the skills they have been training on throughout the course. Soldiers wear their combat equipment and treat the casualties given different scenarios at full-combat speed to simulate treating a casualty under fire.
“We try to make the training more realistic and perform the skills that are most pertinent to the war in Afghanistan,” said Simpson. “The things we focus on the most during this course are hemorrhaging from an extremity, airway complications and tension pneumothorax (collapsed lung), which are the three most preventable causes of death on the battlefield today.”
Bales, a combat medic with the 155th Engineer Company, hopes to use these skills in the near future.
“I am planning on going to college to be in medical field soon, so it will be good to have a firm background of all of the EMT skills and the skills we learn as combat medics in the National Guard,” said Bales, a 19-year-old resident of Piedmont. “Just the basic knowledge that I have will help be the foundation of what I will learn in the future in college.”
As the only combat medic in her unit, Bales added that she really enjoyed meeting other medics who work throughout the state, and to share individual experiences of those who have and have not deployed and how they have used these skills.