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Pvt. Alfredo Alvaredo, from Company A, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, sports the new tan aid bag issued to him just before his training rotation started at Hohenfels earlier this month.

Pvt. Alfredo Alvaredo, from Company A, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, sports the new tan aid bag issued to him just before his training rotation started at Hohenfels earlier this month. (Ben Murray / S&S)

HOHENFELS, Germany — Papa’s got a brand new bag.

For Army medics from the 1st Armored Division preparing for an upcoming deployment to Iraq, this week’s mission rehearsal at the Hohenfels training area is more than just a slog through the mud to reach role-playing casualties sporting fake blood.

The training also is the first experience with a new and improved version of a critical part of the equipment the medics use in the field — the Army aid bag.

“It opens up a lot better than the old one does, so you can see what you’re working with a lot better,” said Pvt. Alfredo Alvaredo, a medic with Company A, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment.

Just a few months shy of his next deployment to Iraq, Alvaredo said the new bag is a definite improvement over the one he carried on the last deployment. A wide, bulky tan backpack with front-facing zipper and fold-out flaps, the new bag has more pockets and is easier to heft than the old, microwave-size kit he carried until last month, he said.

But its main advantage is that it’s more organized than the old, square-shaped aid bag, which had “too many secret compartments,” he said.

The new version also comes with a packing list that tells the medics exactly where to put supplies, a key difference as the Army continues to increase the number and complexity of drugs and equipment the medics carry, said Sgt. William Monk, another medic with the 1-35th.

But as a slightly smaller bag, that doesn’t make the new kit easy to load, he said.

“It’s like playing Tetris,” he said, referring to the online puzzle. “You’ve got to get it just right.”

In previous years, the art of packing an aid bag hadn’t been so clear cut.

“I just started mixing stuff [from] what I saw in other medics’ bags,” Alvaredo said.

Along with improved equipment — such as a new, easy-to-use ratcheting tourniquet and a more compact litter — the situations used to prepare the medics have become more specialized to the Iraq theater, he said.

This month, medics are training almost exclusively in urban areas, running along with dismounted troops instead of waiting to care for casualties from tank battles, Monk said.

Focus also is being placed on different areas of medicine in reaction to conditions in Iraq, he said, zeroing in on controlling bleeding and keeping wounds sterile.

These days, carrying and accessing the tools to perform those tasks is getting a little easier with the aid of the new equipment, he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of versions,” Monk said of the aid bags. “They’re getting a lot better.”


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