Trauma kits can help save lives

12 Aug 2004 | Lance Cpl. Caleb J. Smith

To quicken the response time to medical emergencies here, corpsmen from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit have strategically placed self-help medical supplies at key locations throughout the base.

These medical supplies, known as trauma kits, allow Marines to apply “buddy aid” to their wounded brethren immediately after any endangering incident.

“There are seven kits around the camp so far … 16 more will be made,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer David W. Short, the MEU’s senior navy enlisted leader and a native of Raleigh, N.C.  “Its similar to battle dressing stations on a ship.” 

“We’ve had to change our medical tactics since many people are concentrated in one place,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jim Harris, the MEU’s surgeon and a native of Baton Rouge, La. 

Both Harris and Short suggested that the idea for the trauma kits is similar to the strategy used on Navy ships, where medical supplies are set up equally, one after another, on each side and level, in proportion to the ship.  These stations are called Battle Dressing Stations, or BDS’s.  They serve as emergency medical kits for immediate first aid, as well as casualty staging points for injured sailors or Marines awaiting transportation to the main staging point, or the Main BDS. 

The kits contain battle dressings, cravats (for making slings), burn dressings, chemical lights, splints, a stretcher, and other necessary medical supplies. 

Since indirect fire is the biggest threat to personnel inside the base, the kits are placed in areas where large numbers of Marines live and work. 

“Immediate response to trauma is critical,” said Harris, who explained that the Marines have all been trained to apply first aid immediately, thus increasing the chance of the wounded Marine’s survival. 

“It’s called the golden hour,” added Short.  “Definitive care in that first hour.  It’s a force multiplier; there are a large number of Marines and a small number of [navy] corpsman.  This way every Marine becomes a junior corpsman.”

“The [trauma] kits are mostly geared for mass casualties, not for small injuries,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerry W. Fahm, a hospital corpsman with the Command Element and New Orleans native. He added that the kits were for major injuries, not wounds that could be treated by regular means. 

The medical staff here continues to find proactive ways to keep their Marines and sailors healthy and safe.  They are also encouraging other Forward Operating Bases in the area to follow suit.