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Feature Stories

NEWS | Oct. 27, 2017

Engineers build lifesaving skills

By Sgt. Thomas Crough U.S. Army Central

Medical personnel attached to the 854th Engineer Battalion out of Saugerties, New York, conducted a Combat Lifesaver course culminating in immersion lanes training Oct. 27-28, 2017, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. 

The Army Combat Lifesaver course is a week-long course designed for Soldiers from any military occupational specialty to learn and practice lifesaving techniques in a classroom environment. 

“Combat Lifesaver training actually prepares the Solider for combat in a way that is unique to anything else out there,” said Staff Sgt. Terry Speck, Battalion Senior Medic, 854th Eng. Bn. “Not only do they have to be a Soldier first but they are now given this extra responsibility to save lives. 

“Combat medics, like myself; we have extensive training,” he continued. “These folks get a week course. So we crash course them in all kinds of things, how to put a tourniquet or emergency bandage on, and other stuff as well. The focus for us is to control hemorrhage which in our combat environment is a big thing.” 

Although CLS training is not as in-depth as what a combat medic receives, it still saves lives. 

“A combat lifesaver is the connection between point of injury, battle buddy aid and a 68W combat medic,” said Cpt. Raymond Mott, Battalion Physician Assistant, 854th Eng. Bn. “Unfortunately many of the injuries the Soldiers sustain happen when there isn’t necessarily a 68W near them, but there is always a battle buddy – and what we are trying to ensure is that there is always a combat life saver close them as well. We are trying to bridge that gap.” 

“We try to give them those skills, so that when they go forward to an austere environment if they are in a combat situation and a battle buddy goes down they are going to know how to put that tourniquet on and save that Soldier’s limb or their life,” said Speck. 

What made this course unique was the culminating event of realistic exercises, including loading a helicopter to simulate a medical evacuation and combat immersion lane training. 

“This is the first time we have had this type of iteration,” said Mott. “Every time we have done a class we try to plus it up with more assets, try to make it more real.”

“We have the pyrotechnics, we have the pneumatic devices, we have them drag a soldier a quarter-mile so they are already smoked when they get to their station,” elaborated Mott. “That realism is going to affect if they have to do it for real. They did outstanding. We use the mantra ‘train as we fight.’”

The Soldiers in training appreciated the realism and ran through their jobs as combat lifesavers.

“Today we ran through react to fire,” said Spc. Edgar Allen, a plumber with 306th Engineer Company, Farmingdale, New York. “As a combat lifesaver your primary mission is combat first. Secondary is life saver. So you are taught to address the situation that you find yourself in. Reacting to fire for instance and suppressing the enemy. Once you’ve suppressed the enemy, quickly assess your causality – once you’ve assessed your casualty move them to a safer location and provide care from there.”

Soldiers that took the course were from different units, acting as force multipliers and increasing unit readiness when they share their new life-saving skills with their fellow Soldiers. 

“The students were chosen by the units themselves, based off knowing that the Soldiers are going to be going forward to some austere environments in the future they wanted to get them fully up to speed and ready to hit that environment with the skills that CLS course would give them,” said Speck. 

“I took this CLS course because it was dropped on me,” laughed Allen. “However I do find it most beneficial because it will prepare me for a real-life situation I may find myself in the future when we go to Afghanistan or Iraq or anyplace I will always be ready. I would recommend this course to other service members, reason being when we eventually find ourselves in a combat situations this will teach us how to react.”

Positive reactions have encouraged the leadership to continue with the immersive real-world scenarios. 

“This is definitely something we are going to keep doing and keep improving on to make sure these Soldiers are getting the best training available out there,” explained Speck. “Especially getting to Kuwait and then moving forward to austere locations. It is vital to their skills to be able to have that hands-on training in a live environment.”

“Combat lifesaving is a skill that every soldier should have,” Mott said, “it is my intent to have 100% of our Soldiers in my unit to be combat life savers…we always want to be ahead of the curve because you never know when you are going to need that lifesaving aid – you are always going to have a soldier by you – it would be better if they were a combat lifesaver.”