Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pre-Deployment Training

Since Sunday evening I've been at Army Medical Headquarters at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas attending a five day course called Tactical Combat Medical Care. There are about thirty of us and and we're all headed for Afghanistan or Iraq. About half of us are physicians and the rest are mostly Physician Assistants.

The course is taught by senior army medics who have each had several deployments and have personally handled everything they're teaching. Most of them have gone back to school and are now Physicians Assistants. I've also met former enlisted soldiers with combat experience who have gone back to school and are now physicians.

There is still a GI Bill and there are generous educational benefits offered to soldiers, even while they're in the military. Of course the soldier must commit to school and get acceptable grades which unfortunately is often a huge obstacle. We see our soldiers go through extreme training and then they must endure the enormous hardships and danger of going out on patrol in extreme weather conditions. They carry huge packs and they face suicide bombers and a very vicious enemy and then sign up for another deployment. This they are able to do but so many soldiers who are so bright say they are terrified at the thought of going to school even when offered generous scholarships. I can't help comparing them to other young adults who would never go anywhere near the military which they would find terrifying but are so comfortable and happy in a university atmosphere.

Anyway, all medical providers "going down range" are taught to be combat lifesavers. This means how to handle the seriously wounded soldier, during a battle, who is going to die from their wounds unless they get emergency medical care using only the supplies that can be carried on a backpack. Once they've been stabilized they are still not out of danger. They still have to be moved forward to a higher level treatment faility or moved by helicopter to a facility that can perform surgery.

This doesn't mean that we are going to be sent onto the battlefield to gather up the wounded because that's not my job. However, as an educational foundation they want to train us as first responders because that is what the medics in the army do and being a first responder is the ethos of army medicine. So, I have to learn what to do when you come upon a soldier seconds or minutes after loosing limbs from an explosion or unable to breath because of a gun shot wound. If you give them the correct treatment and manage to get them transported rapidly to a facility that can do surgery you can save their life. Otherwise they will die from shock and blood loss where they have fallen.

The days have been very interesting and intense. . After each class I have to eat rapidly and go to my room and study every night, tomorrow is the final and graduation.

We'll see what next week brings.

Major Martin


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