Fake blood, real lessons: National Guard students get combat medic training
East Lyme ― A Humvee ambulance pulled up to the battalion aid station tent at the Army National Guard training facility Wednesday morning, and faced with both real people with fake injuries and a mannequin, the medics-in-training sprang into action. A simulator of incoming fire had gone off.
Trainees worked on a mannequin with a bilateral amputation – right arm and left leg. “NPA, NPA!” one person shouted, as this “patient” needed a tube called a nasopharyngeal airway inserted, after getting tourniquets.
Meanwhile, real people were receiving intravenous infusions of saline solution, representing a blood volumizer, and being sprayed with fake blood. A student used a marker to write the time of tourniquet application on a patient’s forehead.
“It hurts! It hurts! So much blood! Oh, oh God!” wailed one of the National Guard members helping out the 17 students and eight instructors. (Her acting was more convincing than a man who later was standing around wearing an attachment on each arm that made it look like he lost both hands. After being reminded that he would be weak from blood loss, he promptly collapsed on the ground.)
In the background, the sounds of gunshots and radio chatter – to make the experience more authentic – eventually gave way to “All Along the Watchtower.”
“Hurry up! We gotta get these patients out to evac!” one person shouted. A Black Hawk helicopter had landed, blowing dust into the clear blue sky at Stones Ranch Military Reservation. Trainees were doing a hot load, meaning the rotors were still spinning. The helicopter took off, circled and landed again to get more patients.
The students were training to get injured people off the field as part of combat medic training the Connecticut National Guard’s 169th Regional Training Institute conducted Wednesday.
It was the culminating event of the three-phase, 64-day Combat Medic Training Transition Course, successful completion of which grants students the U.S. Army military occupation specialty of 68W (Combat Medic). They already earned their National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians Basic Certificate.
The soldiers are from the Connecticut National Guard and commands elsewhere in the country.
Regina Farrington of Colchester, 36, said her goal is to be on a combat deployment. Outside of the National Guard, she works as an emergency room nurse in a Level 1 trauma center, and she said the training “feels like a modified trauma room.”
“It’s pretty realistic,” she said. “We’re dirty, we’re sweaty, we’re wearing our full Kevlar vests and everything.”
The day started with the students taking a mile-long road march to the field, where they set up the battalion aid station and were told to prepare for incoming patients. Farrington said they were dealing with mock situations such as amputations, gunshot wounds to the chest, and burns to the face.
This is the third Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for Farrington, but Sgt. First Class Megan Authier, course manager of the 68W course, said it’s the first military specialization in the Army for others.
Authier said in the near future, the National Guard will be looking at doing training in prolonged field care, considering there may be situations in which a helicopter can’t get in for hours or even days, such as in places with difficult terrain.
She noted that the training can apply not just in combat but “really anywhere,” such as in a car accident.
This training happens once a year. Authier said National Guard and reserves come through, in addition to people who are active-duty.
Later at Stones Ranch on Wednesday was field training in phase one of Officer Candidate School, a 14-month development program.