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Marines take lives into their own hands

29 Sep 2007 | Lance Cpl. Alex C. Guerra 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Navy corpsmen have one job, save Marine lives, but what happens when no one hears “corpsman up!”

Faced with this possibility, corpsmen with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, shared their medical expertise with Marines during a Combat Lifesavers course Sept. 29, 2007.

Nine corpsmen from BLT 1/6 taught self-aid and buddy-aid lessons aboard USS Nassau during the 24th MEU’s Expeditionary Strike Group Integration Exercise training, with the intent of helping Marines help themselves.

“We teach Marines how to save their buddies,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Albert Ramirez, hospital corpsman, BLT 1/6. “We go over the first line of medicine and how to recognize and treat injuries. We also try to build their confidence with hands-on training, so if their buddy goes down, [they] can provide medical aid.”

The CLC teaches Marines to sustain an injured person until help arrives. The course doesn’t make Marines corpsmen, but expands basic first-aid knowledge and eliminates myths.

“In boot camp [Marines] are taught that tourniquets are a last resort, but in combat the tourniquet is first thing used to treat severe bleeding,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Corcoran, lead instructor, field corpsman, BLT 1/6.

Every Marine received hands-on training with the new combat application tourniquet and experienced what it feels like to have one applied. Instructors also shared personal experiences, stressing the importance knowing and performing correct medical attention in time-sensitive situations.

“Many casualties could’ve been saved by controlling bleeding,” said Corcoran, as he recalls his experience in Iraq. “Someone was wounded and a corpsman couldn’t get to him in time. He ended up dying. Not from his wounds, but from severe blood loss. We teach this course to increase survivability.”

As lead instructor, Corcoran ensures all Marines in the course are familiar with the new first aid equipment they’ll deploy with, such as the Israeli bandage and Quick-clot; both tools that could save a Marine’s life.

“Marines need to know life sustaining skills,” Corcoran said. “This course is made for Marines across the board. Usually there is one corpsman per squad, but the battalion wants to have at least two combat lifesavers per corpsman in combat.”

Once certified, Marines are expected to perform immediate-lifesaving treatment when called upon, he added.

“Anyone can learn this,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Demke, mortarman, Weapons Company, BLT 1/6. “The course teaches skills that Marines can use right away. The things that are taught are simple and the equipment used is idiot-proof.”

This training is a force multiplier and its effects are invaluable, Demke added.

“It’s everyday life that we see injuries and wounded in combat. Some of these Marines will [probably] see it too, but it’s good to know that they can take care of it, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael A. Potter, field corpsmen, BLT 1/6.”