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CLS Students Taught To Save Lives
by Army Spc. Chelsea Russell - May 12, 2012

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Lance Cpl. Alexander Hoffman, a Military Police member with Anti-Terrorism Force Protection from Friendswood, Texas, practices using a pressure dressing on Lance Cpl. Jeff Leddy, a Military Police member with Anti-Terrorism Force Protection from Inman, Kan., during the two-day Combat Lifesaver course held by I Marine Headquarters Group (Forward) April 19, 2012. Photo by Army Spc. Chelsea Russell
Lance Cpl. Alexander Hoffman, a Military Police member with Anti-Terrorism Force Protection from Friendswood, Texas, practices using a pressure dressing on Lance Cpl. Jeff Leddy, a Military Police member with Anti-Terrorism Force Protection from Inman, Kan., during the two-day Combat Lifesaver course held by I Marine Headquarters Group (Forward) April 19, 2012. Photo by Army Spc. Chelsea Russell

 CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (5/8/2012) - The gentle whir of the air conditioners was barely perceptible over the confident voices of the Marines as they reviewed the written test portion of the Combat Lifesaver Course held at Camp Leatherneck, April 18 and 19.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Isaiah Bowen, a hospital corpsman and the assistant lead petty officer for I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group (Forward), has been teaching CLS since 2006. Although the class content may change every few years, he explained it's still pretty much the same course he taught when he first started teaching.

The curriculum for the class is standardized across all services. Every two years the administrators of the CLS course get together and re-evaluate the information contained within the course because medicine is always changing.

Along with the medical changes that are constantly occurring, the tactics of combat medics have also undergone various changes throughout the years.

“The Taliban fight a nontraditional war,” said Bowen. “They don't follow Geneva conventions. According to Geneva conventions I'm a noncombatant.”

As a medic, Bowen isn't supposed to get shot at by enemy combatants. He's not supposed to be the casualty.

“Unfortunately, corpsmen, on an enemy scale, are one of the top three,” he explained. “Officer, communications and corpsmen are the three people that stand out the most. They tend to want to
shoot at us or toward us.”

 Hence the reason why combat medics no longer wear the big red badge commonly seen throughout World War II and Vietnam eras. The bright red badges with the symbol of a cross were once worn with pride, but now make medical personnel a vulnerable target to an enemy with no concerns for adhering to the guidelines of a treaty that holds no meaning for them.

Corpsmen do get hurt, despite their best efforts to avoid being targeted by the enemy. Therefore, it's useful to have CLS trained service members who can aid the corpsmen when treating injuries in a combat situation and there's also someone who can treat the corpsmen in the instance they are injured.

“It's very helpful to have more hands and more help than just us,” said Bowen. “When we get hurt, if there's no one left to save us then we're all in a world of hurt. It's a contingency plan and also an aid for us.”

Bowen said CLS certified service members come into play more than people want to believe.

“If I'm already busy or a platoon gets separated on a convoy, it could already be too late by the time I get there,” explained Bowen. “So, having a CLS there to sustain them until the corpsman gets there to do more in-depth interventions actually saves a lot of peoples' lives.”

Just a few weeks ago, a corpsman was injured by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol. The CLS Marines were the ones who provided aid to him and the other Marines injured by the blast.

There is a lot of information contained within the CLS course, but Lance Cpl. Jeff Leddy, a military police member with Anti-Terrorism Force Protection from Inman, Kan., said it's a valuable course to take, especially in a war zone where those skills could become invaluable.

“I thought it was informative because I learned some techniques I never really knew before,” said Leddy. “The information was taught in a way that I could understand it and then they adequately reviewed it.”

He volunteered to have the six-inch nasopharyngeal tube inserted into his nasal passage as part of a demonstration for the class. Leddy said the experience of having the tube in his nose was probably one of the most uncomfortable things he's had done to him other than being sprayed with pepper spray as part of his training to be an MP. He grimaced as he recalled the experience; it's not something he wants to repeat anytime soon.

This will be the fourth CLS course I MHG (Fwd) has held since arriving here. There were five students in the class and, despite the sheer amount of content compressed into two days time, all of them passed.

Bowen said his most recent students did very well within the course and were eager to tackle any scenario he threw at them. He hopes they are now able to competently treat their fellow service members in the instance they are injured during a mission.

“Well, if nothing else, I hope they're now able to recognize life-threatening wounds and how to treat an airway and how to keep an airway open,” said Bowen. “If they can do those three basic things, then it saves a lot of lives.”

As a teacher, Bowen enjoys getting up in front of his students and sharing his experiences as a combat medic. The sense of satisfaction he feels at the conclusion of a well-taught CLS course lets him know he's done his part in sharing his hard-earned knowledge with others.

“It's good to see people go from knowing nothing to actually sitting there and performing the full assessment,” said Bowen. “It makes us feel more comfortable if we have to do missions with them or go on a patrol or convoy with them that we have somebody there to save us in case we get hurt. Anybody can restart an engine, not everyone can save a life. It's a little more in-depth.”

The recent graduates of the CLS course taught here are ready to conquer any life-threatening instances they may encounter during their deployment due to the training they received. Each one of them is filled with pride at the thought that they are now capable of providing care to those who may get injured in the pursuit of defending their country. It's a tough job, but they're more than able to handle any situation they may encounter during their deployment.

By Army Spc. Chelsea Russell
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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