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24th MEU Shock Trauma Plt. brings advanced medical care to BLT

24 Aug 2004 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

For the Marines of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, who are forward  deployed in Iraq, the threat of injury is elevated because of the types of missions they conduct.

To combat this danger, the BLT has beefed up the staff at its Battalion Aid Station with eight sailors from the Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 24 Shock Trauma Platoon.

"We are schooled in advanced emergency medical techniques and have the knowledge and tools to perform minor surgeries and resuscitations," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Rashad Waller, 28, a Danville, Va., native and STP corpsman. "We bring to the BLT a more advanced medical care facility."

While only eight sailors may not seem like a lot, the STP is meant to be small and mobile. It is made up of two emergency-room doctors, four corpsmen, one chief independent duty corpsman and one critical-care nurse.

"We are pretty much just two or three machines away from being a (Combat Surgical Hospital)," said Waller. "If we had just a few more capabilities, we would be like them."

The STP relies on mobility to be able to save lives.  The platoon has the ability to set up its medical spaces wherever they may be needed.

"We can tear this place down in 42 minutes," said Waller. "Then set up at the new location in under an hour."

"Depending on our lighting situation, we can have everything set up in about 40 minutes, but we should be able to start receiving patients in 30 minutes," added Lt. Cmdr. Ethan Bachrach, 34, an Ellensburg, Wash., native and officer in charge of the Shock Trauma Platoon. "We can then take critical trauma patients and do whatever interventions need to be done."

So far STP has treated six Marines, most of whom had shrapnel wounds.  They have also provided medical care to two detainees.

When they aren't busy treating patients, the sailors spend a lot of time training and working with the BLT's corpsmen on advanced medical procedures.

"Everyday we have three corpsman from the BLT come over for an hour a day," said Waller. "They get to work with the electronics and use some of the other equipment like sonograms - stuff they don't have."

"It makes them more well-rounded," he added. "It also makes the corpsmen more comfortable."

The STP corpsmen also spend time each day studying different types of wounds and how to effectively treat them. "We just finished watching videos on how to treat different kinds of shrapnel injuries," said Waller.

Training doesn't stop there.  The STP members also use interactive training methods to hone their skills.

"We also spend time each day being the patient," said Waller.  "The doctor will tell us to lay on one of the racks and give us different injuries with different symptoms. Then the corpsman has to go through what he would do."

After the training, the doctors debrief the corpsmen, critiquing the sailors' actions and suggesting ways to improve their techniques.

"The more training these guys do, the better off they will be - the better off everyone will be," said Bachrach.

Another responsibility the STP has is patient turnover with medical evacuation crews who take patients to larger medical facilities.

"It only takes 15 minutes for the [medical evacuation] bird to get here. Our goal is to perform resuscitation and make sure the critical patients don't deteriorate between here and the (Combat Surgical Hospital.)"

Experience in dealing with battlefield injuries is what makes this team what it is. All of the sailors in the platoon participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom I. Most of them even worked with each other last year.

"Combined, we saw more than 600 combat casualties last year," said Bachrach. "We had no patients die on us, that came to us with a pulse," he added.

With all that training and experience, the STP offers a lot of capabilities to the BLT.

"We benefit the Marines who are out there by acting as a security blanket for them," said Waller. "They know that if something happens to them, we can (evacuate) them all the way to (Combat Surgical Hospital.)"