CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – In a busy chaotic scene, Afghan National Army medic trainees stepped closer to graduation and joining infantry kandaks in the ANA’s 215th Corps March 3, 2012.
The students, going through an eight-week medic course, conducted their first mock patrol and ambush at the Regional Military Training Center on Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, as a practical lesson to treat casualties.
“Today we practiced a patrol and faced an ambush and we might have some patients and we can just treat them immediately, and how to move them to a safe area,” said ANA Pvt. Raouf, a medic trainee and class leader said through a linguist.
For the most part the students have done these exercises hands on before, just not in this setting, said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class William Kelly, a medic course instructor with Regional Support Command Southwest.
“This was just their first test without us guiding them through the entire process,” Kelly explained.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to drill into them during this phase is the order of care: return fire, take cover, apply a tourniquet, get them back, take care of their (Airways-Breathing-Circulation), and then take care of the minor injuries,” said Kelly, from Baltimore, Md.
The students formed up as if on a patrol. It was loud and noisy. Afghan contractors were building the foundations for new barracks; the patrol headed out, some students held their arms like they were carrying weapons. They moved to an open area where classmates were playing casualties.
Kelly yelled to take cover, the linguists translated and a mock ambush ensued. The medics took cover behind whatever they could find – buildings or staircases – and shot back. Some fired as they ran to cover.
“Shoot toward the enemy!” Kelly and the linguists yelled.
The patrol beat the ambush back and the medics started treating their buddies lying in the dirt.
“Quickly! Quickly!” Kelly and the linguists yelled. “He’s bleeding! He’s bleeding!”
The students playing casualties started to make noise. They kicked and moaned. The medics figured out what was wrong with their buddies. They applied tourniquets or bandages to stem bleeding and carried them toward a nearby aid station.
The scene inside the aid station was chaotic.
“The most important thing is airway!” Kelly yelled over the din.
The room was divided into treatment areas for each patient, with medical supplies like IV bottles and splints in each one. The medics checked for pulses, looked for breathing, patted down their patients for broken bones and set splints. A few readjusted tourniquets or placed bandages where chest wounds might be.
ANA Pvt. Mohaibullah Mohabat was a medic during the exercise. Through a linguist, he explained his patient had a fractured leg and was unconscious. He applied a tourniquet on the fractured leg and treated a gunshot wound to the chest.
“He wasn’t able to breathe normally, then I, as the instructors teach me, I applied a special kind of seal on the chest,” he explained.
After a few minutes the students yelled for Kelly to come over and look over their treatment. The exercise ended with a quick after action where Kelly gave advice on things for the students to work on.
“The training lane, once we finish adding the other components to it, they’ll probably do this 20 or 30 more times before they finish,” he explained.
The instructors want to make sure the students are proficient so they can do it in a combat setting without having to think about it, Kelly said.
Once Kelly’s current class graduates in a few weeks they’ll be patrolling around Helmand province with their kandaks almost immediately, Kelly said.
“Unlike US (military) medics, we have quite a bit of time where we finish our basic medical training before we find ourselves in a combat circumstance, these guys will go directly out on patrol as soon as their finished,” Kelly said.
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