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Marines attached to Combine Anti-Armor Team Platoon, Team 2, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, get some hands-on training with how to properly apply a tourniquet during a Tactical Combat Casualty Care class May 16.

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Piper

24th MEU Marines learn to take lives into own hands

20 May 2010 | Gunnery Sgt. Robert Piper 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

In combat there are three types of casualties, those that will live no matter what type of initial care they receive, those that are fatally wounded and will not survive despite best possible care, and those that require the right actions at the right times in order to preserve life.

Marines with Combined Anti-Armor Team Platoon,  Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, enhanced their ability to make these correct decisions during a Tactical Combat Casualty Care course May 16.

"The main focus is getting the person to know what to do on the battlefield to care for an immediate injury," said the course instructor. "In a firefight, these people need to know when to intervene, and what to do once out there."

A majority of the class involved learning the six steps of action, which describe what type of injury to look for and lists them in the order they should be treated.  These steps, called MARCHE, are massive bleeding wounds, restricted airways, respiration, compression or collapsed chest, head trauma and evacuation.  

While all the steps are relevant, the training focused primarily on the first three. Marines learned how to check for injuries, and more importantly how to treat them with hands-on training.  Each participant practiced applying a tourniquet , identifying and treating a sucking chest wound, using a Nasopharyngeal airway (NPA) to facilitate breathing and talking to a patient to help treat for shock.

“In terms of having hands-on training and learning techniques that are easily retained, this is by far on e of the best courses these marines have received in terms of medical care,” said Hospitalman Pedro Valencia, corpsman, Team 2, CAAT Platoon, WPNS Company, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.

After practicing all the techniques taught on one another, Marines were taken outside the Medical Simulation Training Center where they donned full “battle rattle” and waited for the signal to re-enter, find a simulated casualty, and provide immediate care according to the steps they were taught.

“The idea is to create an environment as close as possible to what these Marines will experience in battle,” said the instructor, a former Army medic. “They’ll be tired, sweaty, fully geared with gloves on – that’s how they will have to treat one another in the fight, that’s how they will do it here. “

Marines broke into 4 man teams and stacked outside the door to the facility. At the sound of incoming indirect fire they rushed into a darkened room.  The only light came from flashing strobe lights and the sounds of incoming and outgoing fire echoed throughout the room.

Each team rush to a simulated victim and for the first two minutes only one person was allowed to provide care as the other three provided simulated suppressive fire.  After two minutes, all team members reassessed the patients as instructors observed and ensured Marines knew when mistakes were made.

“It was very realistic, the dummies bled, they breathed, they were heavy like a person,” said Lance Cpl. Anthony Gonzalez, infantryman, CAAT Platoon Team 2, WPNS Company, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.  “I learned three times more here than I have in any other similar course.  This training is absolutely valuable, anything can happen and we all need to be prepared for that.”

As with all learned skills these will require more practice to keep the skill sharp, but the instructor was impressed with what Marines accomplished.

“Anytime we teach this course the goal is to have no one leave with any question about how they should treat injuries,” said the instructor.  “ This group learned a lot today and really caught on quickly.”