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EMSA educators help train National Guard medics

As a group of medics with the Oklahoma National Guard's 120th Medical Company settled into a classroom at EMSA's education office, one of their instructors wasted no time getting to the point.

Their first task is to save a life.

"They'll have a cool scar to tell about at the bar because they'll be alive," the instructor said, pointedly, when discussing the surgical incision required for a cricothyrotomy, one of the advanced airway techniques on the curriculum.

After viewing a few quick slides, the medics donned latex gloves to practice the technique on a bovine trachea. Their next task was to perform the procedure on a dummy while wearing goggles covered in duct tape to simulate a low-visibility, battlefield situation.

"In a combat setting, you have to utilize what you have," the instructor said minutes earlier, referring not only to the availability of medical supplies but also to the fact that in combat, a soldier's senses can be limited, too.

For the first time, EMSA and the National Guard teamed up to train Friday.

About 30 medics with the Coweta-based Guard unit completed a six-hour advanced airway course at EMSA's clinical education office in Tulsa as part of their routine drill weekend.

Their instructors were two EMSA clinical services educators, one a former Army Ranger and the other a retired Navy corpsman.

Advanced airway training consists of methods and techniques to assist patients who are unable to breathe or are having difficulty breathing on their own.

"Our protocols, how we treat patients in the civilian world and how they treat patients in the military world, are actually similar," said Jim Winham, a captain with the Guard unit and EMSA's director of clinical services.

In addition to teaching and learning the material, Winham is hopeful that the Guard unit and EMSA instructors can establish a rapport and familiarity with the other group's working procedures.

"If the Guard ever gets called out on a state mission to some major incident that we're involved with, we're going to get to know these medics and form a cohesive working relationship," he said.

Governors can dispatch National Guard units to assist in the event of a stateside natural disaster, after a particularly destructive act of terrorism or another emergency.

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