August 1, 2014

Combat Lifesaver Course trains Soldiers to save lives on, off battlefield

Maranda Flynn
Staff Writer
Maranda Flynn
From left, Fort Huachuca Combat Lifesaver Course instructors Sgt. James Atcitty, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, and Sgt. James Fender, 111th Military Intelligence Brigade, wrap a casualty in a heat protective shell during the final event of the Combat Lifesaver Course, July 25. The shell is used to prevent hypothermia following a combat-related incident.

From left, Fort Huachuca Combat Lifesaver Course instructors Sgt. James Atcitty, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, and Sgt. James Fender, 111th Military Intelligence Brigade, wrap a casualty in a heat protective shell during the final event of the Combat Lifesaver Course, July 25. The shell is used to prevent hypothermia following a combat-related incident.

In the event of an emergency, Army combat medics play a critical role by applying first aid and trauma care to wounded Soldiers, but in some situations the first person to assist isn’t always a certified medic.

Fort Huachuca’s U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, or MEDDAC, is now offering a quarterly Combat Lifesaver Course, designed to prepare Soldiers for the actual experience of saving lives in battlefield or other hostile situations.

The course is the bridge between the basic lifesaving skills that Soldiers receive during basic training and the more intensive training taught to combat medics, so Soldiers can treat casualties prior to the medic’s arrival, according to Sgt. James Atcitty, a combat medic with MEDDAC, Fort Huachuca, and the primary instructor for the recent CLS training July 21 – 25.

“Soldiers benefit from being a CLS because it gives them more confidence in potentially dangerous situations,” Atcitty said. “You aren’t always going to have a medic and if something happens, they have the training to provide those lifesaving measures. They are basically the first responders.”

The course is designed around the three stages of Tactical Combat Casualty Care: Care Under Fire, Tactical Field Care, and Casualty Evacuation Care.

“What they take out of the course is the emergency lifesaving measure like how to apply a tourniquet and how to apply a pressure dressing,” Atcitty said. “We teach rapid trauma exams, how to secure the airway and how to open the airway. We also teach them how to communicate with the evacuation platforms like how to call in for ground or air medical support, and how to package and transport the casualty.”

The five-day course consists of 40 hours of blended classroom and hands-on training given by certified combat medics. On the final day, students take a written exam. After the exam, they are taken outside to perform mock scenarios as a culminating experience.

Fort Huachuca Combat Lifesaver Course instructors move a casualty wrapped in a heat protective shell to the medical evacuation site during a simulated combat practical exercise, July 25. This exercise is designed to simulate a combat situation where Soldiers treat the wounds of a casualty and get him or her to cover where they can safely call for help.

Upon successful completion of the course, the Soldier is certified for one year and an annual recertification is required.

The value of a CLS extends beyond their role while in combat. As the Army changes, updates and improvements are made to the Combat Lifesaver Course.

“The program is geared towards deployments but as deployments slow down, we are trying to incorporate other elements as well,” Atcitty explained. “In the recent course, we had non-military, non-deployable students and in looking at that, we focused on other types of injuries that are common to a garrison environment. We focused on things like sports medicine, training, environmental and day-to-day injuries that we would see more of here in the states.”

“This is a good program, but in the future, I would like to see more,” Atcitty said when asked what he would change about the current training. “The goal as a CLS is to put on the tourniquet, stop the bleeding and protect the airway while you wait for medical reinforcement. But there is so much more that Soldiers could be trained to do while they wait.”

Atcitty, who has been a CLS Course instructor for five years, emphasized the importance of CLS training and getting recertified every year.

“Being a combat lifesaver is a Soldier’s secondary duty — it is always ‘Soldier first.’ In any kind of hostile situation, their job is to suppress the enemy and the danger,” Atcitty said. “But second to that is being a combat lifesaver.”

Enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is open to all Fort Huachuca units. Enrollment forms should be emailed to the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security office,

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