News: Cavalry troopers train to save lives
Story by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf
FORT HOOD, Texas - A squad of soldiers enter through a doorway, and chaos begins to surround them.
Yelling and gunfire envelops them as they move through the room.
Lights flicker sporadically. Smoke engulfs the room. Despite the chaos, the squad must complete its mission – treat and evacuate the casualties.
Troopers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division participated in the Pegasus First Responder Course at the Medical Simulation Training Center here March 3.
Not unlike the Combat Life Saver Course, which focuses on basic self-aid and buddy-aid medical techniques, PFR adds additional skills into the mix.
“There are more tasks involved with PFR than with the traditional Combat Life Saver Course,” said Sgt. 1st Class Wilder Smith, the primary instructor at the MSTC assigned to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. “It incorporates a better grasp on CLS skills and gives more in-depth instructions and hands-on experience with them.”
The course implements the Tactical Combat Casualty Care guidelines, which explains how to treat the wounded, in addition to preventing additional soldiers from getting injured while completing their mission.
Phase one of the TC3, providing care under fire, begins on the first day of the weeklong course. Students learn that 90 percent of all combat deaths occur before the casualty reaches a medical treatment facility.
“The fate of the injured often lies in the hands of the soldier who provides care to the casualty first,” said Spc. Roland Franks, an instructor at the MSTC from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT.
Since the most preventable deaths on the battlefield are hemorrhage, or loss of blood, one of the first steps after neutralizing the enemy is to stop the bleeding.
“We provide step-by-step instructions and have them practice on the mannequins and each other,” said Franks, a Houston native. “Then we give them 60 seconds to apply a tourniquet to emphasize the importance of time in treating a heavily bleeding wound.”
Throughout the course, students must demonstrate the application of what they have just learned.
“I learn the most from the hands-on portions,” said Pfc. Joshua Belleci, a human resources clerk assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd BCT. “As we are putting what we just learned from the classroom to use, the instructors gave us pointers on making the treatment as effective as possible.”
After students learn about care under fire, tactical field care is the next phase on the agenda.
“In this phase, students are taught what wounds need to be treated first,” said Smith, a Kaneohe, Hawaii, native.
Soldiers learn to control heavy bleeding first, establish an open airway, look for and treat any respiration problems, consistently check circulation, identify heat injuries, and treat non-life-threatening injuries.
The instructors brief students on different bandages and techniques to keep pressure on wounds.
“I like the importance they place on packing the wound and wrapping it properly,” said Sgt. John Hornsby, an infantryman assigned to HHT. “These are basic skills everyone needs to know and be good at.”
To show students how to properly emplace a nasopharyngeal airway, a plastic tube that is inserted into a patient’s nostril to help them breathe, Hornsby volunteered to have a soldier insert the tube into his nostril.
“It was great having the opportunity to practice on Sgt. Hornsby instead of on a dummy,” said Belleci, a Vallejo, Calif., native. “In basic training, we weren’t able to practice inserting the nasopharyngeal airway, so doing this was really fun for me.”
Next, students learned how to observe and identify a respiratory problem in casualties.
Some instructors who are combat medics shared their experiences they encountered during their deployments to instill the importance of the curriculum.
“I know some soldiers get overwhelmed providing care to their team members,” Franks said. “To avoid soldiers from forgetting what to do, we try to get them to commit the material to muscle memory.”
After training for tactical field care, they move along to tactical evacuation. This phase is where soldiers learn the procedures and techniques involved in moving an injured soldier to the closest MTF.
Evacuating includes different ways of lifting, carrying and dragging the casualty from one place to another. The use of improvised litters and the proper way to prepare a casualty for an airlift evacuation are also included into this phase of training.
In the final two days of the course, the students take a written test and must maneuver through a simulation lane.
“We were put through some exhausting tasks throughout the lanes,” Belleci said. “I had to get inside of a tank and pull a dummy out.”
The lanes included realistic situations in which the soldiers had to apply skills they acquired during the training. Squads were tested mentally and physically as they navigated through an obstacle course with simulated gunfire and screaming piped into the facility through loud speakers.
“This is the stuff that saves lives,” Belleci said. “Regardless of who gets injured, every soldier should have the ability to be a combat life saver.”