YAKIMA, Wash. –
In the Army, Soldiers take courses for career development, promotion points, and additional duty assignments. When training for combat, though, no duty training may be as important or useful as the Combat Lifesaver Course. At the Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, for Rising Thunder 2019, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard conduct this training as part of their pre-mobilization process.
The Combat Lifesaver (CLS) is Soldiers who are not in a medical Military Occupational Specialty, but is trained to provide lifesaving measures until training medical personnel can take control of the situation. It may take a healthcare specialist several minutes or longer to reach the casualty, especially if there are other casualties. The combat lifesaver is a bridge between the self-aid and medical personnel.
“We are trying to maximize the space and personnel here (at Rising Thunder) to ensure our people are CLS qualified going into mobilization,” said Capt. Adam R. Cunico, of Murphysboro, Illinois, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-130th Inf. Reg., based in Marion, Illinois. “The unit is set to deploy to Afghanistan in 2020.”
The Army tasks the medical forces to train non-medical Soldiers to become combat lifesavers. At Rising Thunder, the 2-130th certifies their own with two class iterations, September 2-3 and 4-5.
"We teach them the priorities, stop mass hemorrhage, get them to cover,” said Spc. Ryan Decker, of Sigel, Illinois, a healthcare specialist with HHC, 2/130th Inf. Reg. “We are going further than that though. We want them to know airway, breathing, circulation. That way, if the medic is not there, they can take care of it.”
These skills apply not only on the battlefield, but in everyday life. Stopping a hemorrhage with a tourniquet is an especially valuable life skill.
“I was just telling them,” said Decker, “these tourniquets can be purchased online for thirty bucks. You're driving the highway and see a car wreck, pull over and see a guy has had his arm severed off. With a tourniquet, you can save someone’s life.”
“The skills we teach are not just for use in the military,” said Pfc. Byron Penny, of Carbondale, Illinois, a healthcare specialist with HHC, 2-130th Inf. Reg. “One night, I watched a vehicle shoot past me and disappear around the bend. That just didn't look right to me since it looked like he had turned too fast. I went down and found that he had gone into the ditch and slammed into a tree. I called 911 and told them a military medic was onsite. As I assessed him, I could see a branch sticking out of his chest. I stabilized the branch and tried to control the bleeding. I ruined the shirt I used to stabilize the stick, but at least the guy was alive.”
A week later Penny discovered from an emergency room doctor that the accident victim had survived. While Penny is a highly-trained healthcare professional, the skills he used that day are the same ones he teaches in the CLS class.
As more Soldiers become CLS qualified, more lives will be saved at home and abroad. According to the Department of Defense, one of the most important lessons learned in the last 17 years of war is that using tourniquets and hemostatic dressings as soon as possible after injury is absolutely lifesaving. Unfortunately, uncontrolled hemorrhage remains the single most preventable cause of death in both military and civilian injuries.
“I think everyone should be CLS qualified,” said Pfc. Tyler Reed, of Sumner, Illinois, an infantryman with Company D, 2-130th Inf. Reg., based in Mount Vernon, Illinois. “We need everyone trained because you never know what can happen or if there is going to be a medic around.”