In Kuwait, a course on lifesaving
CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait — In combat, the difference between life and death can be having someone nearby who is armed with basic lifesaving skills.
To help educate troops on how to save a life, corpsmen with 2nd Medical Battalion’s Company A at Camp Virginia have established the Combat Lifesavers course.
Petty Officers 2nd Class Jason Williams and Terry Sitton and Petty Officer 3rd Class David Shultz run two variations of the course — a one-day refresher for those who have already been certified and a five-day course for beginners. Williams and Sitton instruct the course; Shultz handles the administrative details.
Sitton said there was a serious need for the course because the Army requires at least one member of each squad in a platoon to be lifesaver-qualified. He said when members of his company were told about the need, he and Williams went through an instructor’s course at Camp Arifjan.
The new instructors returned to Camp Virginia with only a handbook and had to quickly find material to teach the class. They found an Army Web site that helped them.
“The first two classes we had no handbooks … we just used the PowerPoint,” Sitton said. “After that, we had the handbook sent down to Camp Doha to get reproduced.”
Williams said they teach the course every other week, instructing anywhere from 10 to 30 students.
Each morning the students receive lectures, followed in the afternoon by hands-on training, Sitton said.
Throughout the five days, students get classes in everything from basic first aid and anatomy to preventive medicine and how to apply splints and tourniquets. Nuclear, biological and chemical agents also give training on how to treat wounds.
“It’s a continuous building program, until the last day when we run them through a scenario,” Sitton said.
The final day involves role-playing, with some of the students being patients and others being the lifesavers. Instructors and fellow students critique the students’ work, Sitton said.
While the casualty drill may be the culminating exercise, Williams said, each student must also pass a written exam and then participate in the most nerve-wracking part of the course for many of them — sticking a fellow student with an intravenous drip.
“They haven’t been too bad,” Williams said of the students’ attempts. “I think our record is six or seven tries.” Sitton added that so far, only one of the 79 students has passed out during that portion of the course.
“They’re all nervous about it and they say ‘I don’t want to stick anybody,’” Sitton said. “But by the end of the week, they realize they may need to do it to save that person’s life.”
Williams said the course is open to all services, although Marines don’t take it because they have a corpsman with units. He added that soldiers who complete the course earn points toward promotion. They also receive a certificate, along with a lifesaver bag full of medical supplies.
Sitton said he thinks the course is critical for members of many units.
“It’s very beneficial, especially these guys that have no [medical] assets,” Sitton said. “Especially these guys going out on convoys.”