Photo Information

Cpl. Wesley Thomas, a supply clerk with the 22nd Maine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), inserts a chest-tube in a realistic, combat-wounded mannequin during a training class aboard Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Sept. 17, 2007. The 22nd MEU(SOC) is in Kuwait conducting sustainment training as part of a scheduled deployment.

Photo by Sgt. Matt Epright

Army trains Navy and Marines to save lives

17 Sep 2007 | Sgt. Matt Epright

Three Marine combat life-savers and a Navy corpsman struggle valiantly to save a legless figure bleeding on the floor of a tent in Kuwait. They staunch the arterial flow just long enough to work on the sucking chest wound.

Once they slow the hemorrhaging, one of them skillfully applies a tourniquet to the base of a severed limb while the others place a flutter-valve on the chest wound to reverse the collapsed lung.

The verdict from the instructor monitoring the terrible tableau? This mannequin will live another day.

Such was the scene repeated several times recently at the Army-run Medical Simulation Training Center, as Marine combat life- savers and Navy corpsmen from Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) practiced their vital expertise on highly responsive, yet simulated victims.

The extremely detailed mannequins used in this high-tech training are full of hoses and computer-regulated pneumatic pumps that allow them to realistically simulate a traumatically wounded human being.

"They cost about 40,000 bucks apiece,"said instructor Brent Cloud, a former Army medic who now spends his days in Kuwait training service members to save the lives of their comrades in the worst of situations.

Cloud takes the time to train the students on what to concentrate on first when dealing with numerous injuries. Then he uses the mannequins, which he controls, to drive the learning points home.

"I try to keep it as realistic as possible,"he said. "If they're going to start splinting a fracture and they haven't stopped the bleeding, I'm going to kill the (mannequin)."

Cloud says he wants the students to make mistakes here in the classroom setting, because it will save lives in combat. As such, he said, he may have someone work the same problem repeatedly.

"I sit there and watch the operator and what he's doing,"said Cloud. "If he's not paying attention to a certain thing enough, then I will keep driving him back to it."

Navy Lt. Marcia Ehrmann, the CLB-22 Medical Officer, said that this kind of front-line medical care - keeping the victim alive long enough for until more extensive care can be provided - can mean the difference between life and death for troops wounded on the battlefield.

"If you can get the patient to the second echelon of medical care, meaning get them to the surgeons, they have a 90 percent chance of surviving,"said Ehrmann, citing medical statistics from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With seemingly never enough corpsman to go around, Ehrmann said that Marine combat life-savers are an indispensable asset for the logistics arm of the MEU. Most of the CLB's business deals with convoys, hauling supplies from one camp to another across the dangerous open roads, where a single improvised explosive device can injure an entire vehicle full of troops.

"If there is a mass-casualty situation, where a humvee blows up, and there's four injured and there's only one corpsman on the convoy, then it really helps to utilize those combat life-saver trained Marines to help that corpsman,"Ehrmann said.

Though the week-long, Navy-taught combat life saver course gives Marines the basic knowledge and skills they need to assist corpsman save lives, Ehrmann said that the Army medical simulation training on Camp Buehring gives the Marines and corpsmen"hands-on training, so they can figure out what to do at the site of impact."

"Actually seeing a limb bleed and watching it stop by doing the interventions you're supposed to do puts it all together and makes it gel a little better for those Marines who have never seen an actual patient before,"she said.

Lance Cpl. Glen Saylors, a landing support specialist with CLB-22 and one of the combat life-saver trained Marines who participated in the training, said it served to boost his confidence in his abilities to do the right thing.

"Now when a situation occurs, I've have this'training' in my memory," he said. "Any time there's hands-on experience, it increases your knowledge, your confidence, over what you're doing about a situation."

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit