News: Combat Lifesaver Course prepares soldiers for battle
Story by Sgt. Shawn Miller
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Painful screams cut through the thick smoke and noise of gunfire as a four-person combat lifesaver team scrambled through the dark looking for the casualties amid the chaotic war zone.
Although those screams were those of actors on a training exercise here today at the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's Medical Battalion Training Site, the stress felt by the students of the Combat Lifesaver Course was very real as they conducted the culminating event of the three-day course.
"This type of training was hands-down the best medical training I've ever been through in the ten years I've been in the military," said Sgt. Mike Quartucci of the 131st Transportation Company, PAARNG.
After being broken into four-soldier teams, the students were thrust into hectic mock warzones complete with Hollywood-style special effects including colored strobe lights, heavy smoke and violent gunfight sounds blaring over loudspeakers. Add in the screaming instructors demanding faster action, and the students experienced what Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Jordan has dubbed, "the frazzle effect."
"Once you get stressed to the point that you have that surge of adrenalin, you lose your cognitive skills and you lose your fine motor skills," explained Jordan, an instructor at the MBTS. "We want them to still be able to perform with that happening."
The course starts with classroom presentations teaching all facets of first aid on the battlefield. The students then move into individual skill labs to try the procedures first-hand on mannequins. On the final day of class, the students bring it all together with the training lane.
"They have to be able to give a good assessment, prioritize the wounds and then treat appropriately," said Jordan, discussing the goal of the event.
Even if the soldiers are doing everything right in the lanes, the instructors still demand more just to keep the stress at a maximum. "The staff is probably one of the greatest things at stressing the students out," said Sgt. 1st Class Jim Johnstone, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the training. "Whether or not they're doing well or doing poorly, we still find things to nitpick about."
No matter how frazzled the soldiers got, however, they all seemed to emerge with a better grasp on what they had learned the previous two days. "It made it very realistic as opposed to just doing it in a classroom environment," remarked Staff Sgt. Kelly Eitreim of the 131st TC.
As the Army constantly adapts to changing combat environments across the
world, the training that soldiers receive must also adapt. "This is not an Army requirement; this is something that we do," said Johnstone in reference to the hyper-realistic training lanes.
By overloading the stress and pushing the soldiers to fight through the confusion to react and save lives, the instructors here hope to point out strengths and weaknesses while still in a controlled atmosphere so that once the real chaos starts, these new combat lifesavers will only have to rely on their newly found instincts.