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If Petty Officer 2nd Class Frances Rivas wasn’t planning on making the Navy a career, she’d definitely have a leg up in the job hunt over most civilian counterparts looking for work in the emergency medical field.

She has the experience, the knowledge and the training, even if it is a bit unorthodox for the civilian sector.

Aviation medicine. Check.

Critical stress management. Check.

Air/water survival skills. Check.

Knowing the “science” behind blast injuries. Check.

All courtesy of the U.S. Navy and a tour of duty treating some of the worst combat wounds U.S. troops suffered in Iraq.

But if there’s one thing the 31-year-old corpsman hopes participants took away from a three-day Operational Medicine Symposium held last week at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Rota, Spain, it is the importance of training, training and more training.

“We’re sending young kids out there to do a job, and the more training they have, the more confidence they have in their skills prior to getting there, the better they’re going to do and the better they’ll be at making the hard calls,” Rivas said during a telephone interview Friday.

The symposium let those who have been to war in Iraq and Afghanistan share with about 160 attendees critical lessons in providing better medical treatment while downrange, from the front lines to the operating rooms and even mental health counseling, said Navy Capt. Jonathan Cutting, the hospital commander.

“My vision is that this becomes a theaterwide, annual training,” Cutting said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class George Silva, 24, another of the presenters, said he talked about improvising on the battlefield. Some emergency medical textbook training isn’t quite applicable when in a war zone, said the corpsman, who served two tours with Marine units.

When a Marine was hit in the eye with shrapnel, for example, he improvised treatment and cut a hole in his pillow to cobble together enough of a bandage to stabilize the Marine’s gaping wound, Silva said by phone. He is now a patient administrator who schedules medical transport flights at the Rota hospital.

In the past three years, training for medical personnel to work within the rigors of a combat zone has become a high priority for the Navy, said Petty Office 2nd Class Tanner Spinaio, a third panel member. He served in Iraq during the invasion in 2003, and then volunteered for back-to-back tours that had him incountry from February 2004 until March 2005.

“The first time, I would have liked to have gotten more trauma training going in,” the 24-year-old sailor with nearly six years of service said by phone. “But now, we’re getting the training we need, and it’s good training.”


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