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Kabul Compound Medics Train Combat Lifesavers

By Staff Sgt. Ron Burke, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 5, 2004 – Twelve people gasped for breath and sucked down water as Staff Sgt. Thomas Leonard paced back and forth in front of them.

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Spc. Shaun Cronk and Spc. Paul Slaton lead a team during a patient evacuation while Lt. Col. Lillie Brown keeps track of the casualty's condition during combat lifesaver training at Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ron Burke, USA

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A medic at the Coalition Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force Compound here, Leonard offered a little encouragement. "You need to be fit to be a medic," he said during a brief break. "Imagine doing this for several casualties!"

The 12 had just completed a fitness portion of their training during the first day of the Combat Lifesaver course.

For two days, 10 soldiers, a Marine and a civilian attended classes for Level I first- aid training as part of the first CLS course administered by the medical team from the 1163rd Area Support Group, an Army National Guard unit from Louisville, Ky. They quickly learned this was no ordinary course.

"You've got four casualties out there!" Leonard bellowed, as eight people rushed past him.

"I'm burning! Help me!" Master Gunnery Sgt. Craig Stafford shouted as he jumped around, trying to rip off his shirt. Two soldiers immediately opened their water bottles and generously doused the Marine with water as he flopped to the ground. They simultaneously opened their aid bags and began to treat the "burn victim."

The second day was the practical exercise and "stress test," in which the trainees had to use what they had learned to save lives. Leonard watched as the teams scrambled to assess the condition of simulated casualties and determined what needed to be done to stabilize them and prepare them for evacuation.

Army Capt. Michael Rice, commander of the three-person medical team, walked by, observing the action and asking the trainees questions while they worked.

"Kabul is a prime, high-visibility target," Rice said, "so we put a call out for one or two people per house for medical training." The compound houses hundreds of military personnel, local Afghans and civilians working on any given day. "It's all about force protection," he said.

Leonard specifically tailored the course to handle the stresses of a potential attack on the compound. Even the combat medic bags had tools and equipment specific for treating injuries within the compound. "What if we were getting rocketed and we had to low-crawl down the alley over there to get to a casualty?" he asked. "It could happen."

In the exercise, each team of two had to quickly assess, treat and prepare each casualty for medical evacuation. Simulated injuries varied from burns to an amputated limb to an open head and chest wound. Treatments included applying field dressings, splinting fractures, stabilizing a casualty with a head or spinal injury, inserting an intravenous needle, and transporting casualties to a collection point.

"If I give you a written test, yeah, you may score highly on it but you're no good to me or anyone unless you can perform out here in the field," Leonard told the trainees. "If you think that this is hard, imagine how it could be if you had multiple casualties."

Sgt. Eric Adams, another medic on the team, watched Pfc. Phillipe Villagran and Pfc. Francis Rich, both assigned to Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, treat Stafford for his simulated burns. Rich scribbled information on a wide strip of white tape that was affixed to Stafford's shoulder.

"The trainees have to log their casualty's vital signs, note if they have a tourniquet and what their medical category is, and display that information on a piece of tape," Rice explained. "Then they must bring him to the casualty collection point and place him in the appropriate category either immediate attention, delayed attention, minimal attention or expectant."

After the training, the new combat lifesavers happily accepted hard-earned certificates of completion. "The realism was great," Pfc. Paul Slaton said as he dusted himself off. "The stress test was very realistic, and I liked the hands-on training."

(Army Staff Sgt. Ron Burke is assigned to the 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfter treating simulated burns and logging Master Gunnery Sgt. Craig Stafford's vital signs, Pfc. Francis Rich of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan inserts an intravenous needle during a practical exercise for combat lifesaver training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ron Burke, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSgt. First Class Shonda Hall and Lt. Col. Lillie Brown work together to drag a casualty on a pole-less litter, one of four casualty carries used during their combat lifesaver practical exercise at Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ron Burke, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMaster Gunnery Sgt. Craig Stafford charges ahead with his simulated casualty, Pfc. Phillipe Villagran, during the physical training stress test portion of the first combat lifesaver course at Kabul, Afghanistan. The fireman's carry was one of four events that each trainee had to complete. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ron Burke, USA  
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