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Combat Medics Train As They Fight
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Healy - August 15, 2015

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CAMP CASEY, South Korea - The Army healthcare specialist has another name by which it is recognized by the general public. The combat medic.

These Soldiers are trained to perform all the tasks of an emergency medical technician and more, all while under enemy fire. The job is intense, and their training must reflect that intensity.

The medics of the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, respond to a casualty evacuation request during a training exercise at Rodriguez Range, South Korea, July 27, 2015. During the exercise, injured Soldiers receive care in order to stabilize their condition long enough to transport them to the unit’s combined troop aid station. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Healy, 2ABCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)
The medics of the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, respond to a casualty evacuation request during a training exercise at Rodriguez Range, South Korea, July 27, 2015. During the exercise, injured Soldiers receive care in order to stabilize their condition long enough to transport them to the unit's combined troop aid station. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Healy, 2ABCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)

First Sgt. Henry Pantoja of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, calls in the nine line medevac request from the radio in his Highly Mobile Multi Wheeled Vehicle. A tank round has exploded near an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, injuring four Soldiers. This is the signal to begin the exercise.

Within two minutes, a second HMMWV outfitted as a field-loaded ambulance tears up the road towards the injured Soldiers scattered around their damaged M113. The red cross on a white field painted on each side are unmistakable. The medics are on the scene.

“Our job is to be a swiss army knife,” said Spc. Leon Jonas, a 24 year old combat medic from Hanover, Maryland, who works at the Combined Troop Aid Station for 1-9 Cav. “We see simple things to very extreme things.”

This type of exercise is what he calls a “trial by fire.” Jonas runs for the nearest casualty.

The injured Soldier, who had been relaxing moments before, laughing while smearing fake blood over her ACU's, clutches at Jonas' uniform and starts screaming. Jonas speaks to the Soldier, telling her that she's going to be ok and that they're going to take care of her. His eyes are on the combat application tourniquet that he's fastening just above the end of her severed leg. Her lower leg and foot lie a few feet away.

Jonas calls for his counterpart, Spc. Wesley Gibens, another combat medic, to help lift her onto the litter he's prepared. They secure the Soldier in place using ratchet straps to prevent her from falling and injuring herself further. Before they move her over to the ambulance, Jonas picks up all of her personal belongings and tucks them under the ratchet straps beside her. A helmet, a pair of glasses, and her severed leg.

“If you don't see training as being realistic, then its not training,” said Jonas. “It helps me definitely to know where my weaknesses are, and where I need to improve as a health care specialist or as a combat medic and as an evacuation team chief. It makes me a better leader.”

With the ambulance loaded, it's time to head back to the aid station. The casualties are unloaded and carried into the makeshift triage center to either be treated or air lifted to a better equipped hospital if necessary. Under the guidance of the clinic's designated physician assistant, the medics explode into action.

Pfc. Christina Suarez, a medic from San Antonio, Texas, begins evaluating patients as they arrive. With each patient her hand become more and more bloody. A small pool starts to form beneath the gurney at her station.

“It's fake,” said Suarez. “It's more just to get us in the mindset that ‘this is happening.' It makes it more realistic.”

Working alongside her is Pfc. Zachary Iser from Lofton, South Carolina. Iser used to be a firefighter. He joined the Army as a combat medic to make his resume as a professional firefighter more competitive.

Iser's patient is having trouble breathing. Inserting an artificial airway through the nose doesn't help, so the PA instructs Iser to begin a cricothyrotomy, creating an airway by performing emergency surgery on the patient's throat. Once the patient is breathing on their own, he begins preparing them for helicopter transport to the nearest hospital.

“Anything under the sun that the PA would allow us to do, we can do,” said Iser. “We're pretty much paramedics.”

The last of the injured Soldiers are carried to the medevac helicopter and secured for transport. Even though there are no more patients to care for, tension is still high as the last of the adrenaline fades.

“Today was our mass casualty training,” said Iser. “They pretty much went through and tried to overload our systems with what they thought would be too many patients or too much severity of the injuries.”

“There are a couple things that we can definitely improve on,” said Iser. “Nobody's perfect but you strive to be as perfect as you can for every patient.”

“You give the same treatment that you would want to get if you were in the same situation,” said Iser.

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Healy
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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