Deploying Soldiers Certified as Combat Lifesavers

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Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta - 27th IBCT Public Affairs
  Dated: Mon, Mar 5, 2012

Deploying Soldiers Certified as Combat Lifesavers
CAMP SHELBY, MS -- Sgt. Andrew Brechko, left, and Spc. Travis Wood, right, treat a mock casualty at a casualty collection point during combat lifesaver training here on Feb. 11. Brechko belongs to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Wood belongs to A Company of the brigade’s 2-108th Infantry Battalion. Brechko is from Windsor, N.Y. and Wood is from Bloomingdale, N.Y. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta, 27th IBCT Public Affairs.

CAMP SHELBY, Miss - Smoke, explosions and the screams of mock casualties made Combat Lifesaver training realistic for 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Soldiers at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center on Feb. 11. First Army Division East instructors certified 71 brigade Soldiers as Combat Lifesavers following lanes training at Camp Shelby’s Bobcat Village. The Soldiers treated mock casualties under simulated combat conditions, capping two days of intensive CLS classes by the trainers.

The Soldiers belong to the brigade’s 2-108th Infantry Battalion, 4-118th Infantry Battalion and Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Earlier the same week, CLS-certified Soldiers of the 4-118th Infantry Battalion did some hands-on training to keep their CLS skills sharp as they prepare to deploy in support of overseas contingency operations.

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.

"They’re Soldiers and shooters first," said Master Sgt. Linda Smith, the NCO-in-charge of the classes. "They have to do that mission first." Smith and the trainers, who conduct about 30 CLS classes a year at CSJFTC, belong to the 2-351 Infantry Battalion, 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East.

"One-hundred percent participation is required to pass this course," she said. 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 CLS-qualified Soldiers, no matter what their rank is, she said.

“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,” Smith recalled.

In the classroom portion of the course, Soldiers learn 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 carry techniques to evacuate casualties.

The training lanes in Bobcat Village tie together everything the Soldiers learned in the classroom, Smith said. Constructed with streets and wooden buildings like an actual town, Camp Shelby’s Bobcat Village is used for tactical and combat exercises.

The scenario on the lanes involved indirect fire and multiple casualties. Soon after entering the village in squad-sized elements, the Soldiers hit the dirt, shouting "incoming!" as high-pitched whines heralded the loud boom of artillery simulators.

As the explosions faded, the cries of the wounded could be heard, and the Soldiers immediately responded to render aid. The smoke and explosions kept on coming as the Soldiers carried the wounded to a casualty collection point to evaluate and treat their wounds. Placing the wounded on litters, the Soldiers then called for medical evacuation using the nine-line medevac request and took them to a nearby landing zone.

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, she said.

"When your adrenaline goes up, you perform faster," Smith said. "Those seconds could save a Soldier’s life."

Actually hearing the explosions and screams got his adrenaline going, and was the right preparation for actual situations, said Staff Sgt. Samuel Ortiz of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

"That way, when we get out there, we won’t be as nervous," said Ortiz, of Brooklyn, N.Y. The training was exciting, realistic and comparable to training he received during his stint in the Marine Corps, he said.

Evaluating casualties thoroughly and paying attention to detail were just two of the things he learned, Ortiz said, and those things save lives.

This was the best CLS training in his experience, said Pfc. Clayton George, 2-108th Infantry Battalion. Among other things, they learned newer standards and got a chance to use updated equipment, he explained.

"This is more realistic than those I’ve done in the past," said, George, who is from Medina, N.Y. "Here, we also moved as a squad and pulled security."

You have to keep cool, despite the smoke and explosions, so you don’t make mistakes, George said.

"You have to make sure to do it right and get the mission completed. " he stressed. "Smooth is fast and fast is smooth."

Soldiers of B Company, 4-118th Infantry Battalion showed the same motivation when they conducted three days of CLS training here the same week. Since 98 percent of the company is CLS certified, the training was simply a refresher course, said 2nd Lt. William Jensen, of B Company. Most of that training took place at home station before mobilizing, added Jensen, who is from Charleston, S.C.

As he did at home station last year, Sgt. Stephen Caldwell, senior medic for B Company, conducted most of the training here. The Soldiers practiced things like the fireman’s carry, heaving their fellow Soldiers over their backs and moving a short distance before treating simulated injuries and calling for medevac helicopter using the nine-line medevac request.

“Though ‘cheat cards’, showing each line of the nine-line medevac request are nice to have, Soldiers should know what each line means and why they’re important,” said Sgt. Benjamin Dye, of B Company, who helped with the training.

"The first five lines are gonna get the bird in the air," said Dye, who is a firefighter and emergency medical technician with North Charleston, S.C. Fire Department.

He taught about 20 CLS classes in 2011, and tried to make them as involved as possible, using combat scenarios, gunshot sound effects and latex moulage to simulate a variety of injuries, said Caldwell, of Charleston. Everyone should know the basics of CLS, and it’s not just for combat, he stressed.

"Anything can happen at any time, and there may not be a medic around," Caldwell explained. "It may not always be a combat-related injury."

Battalion CLS-certified Soldiers helped treat a Soldier who had broken his toe when the brigade was at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Ca. last fall, Caldwell said. They stabilized the Soldier’s injury and transported him for further treatment by medics, he recalled.

"They jumped in and weren’t scared, and that’s what’s important," Caldwell said.

First Army Division East, which has eight brigades located across the eastern United States and its territories, mobilizes, trains, validates and deploys Reserve Component units at CSJFTC to support overseas military operations. Along with Reserve component units, the division’s trainer/mentors prepare and deploy sailors and airmen, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments, to provide trained and ready forces across a full-spectrum of operations to regional combatant commanders worldwide.

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Page Last Modified: Mon, Mar 5, 2012