Marines

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An instructor looks at his watch as he times how long it takes a student to properly apply a tourniquet to a casualty during an exercise at the Field Medical Training Battalion East’s Combat Simulation Laboratory aboard Camp Johnson, June 29. The exercise was held in a dark building with strobe lights, fog and the sound of machine-gun fire and screams blaring through the speakers to put the stress of the battlefield on corpsmen, many of whom will deploy in support of Marine units in Afghanistan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Victor Barrera

Combat simulation lab adds realism to corpsman training

29 Jun 2011 | Lance Cpl. Victor Barrera

Throughout history, Navy corpsmen have been known to risk life and limb to save a Marine’s life. Even with rounds ricocheting overhead and the stress of battle weighing heavily on them, a corpsman has to maintain his cool as he uses his medical skills to apply a tourniquet or treat a sucking chest wound to an injured warrior.

Their calmness is not something that just comes to them naturally; it is something they constantly train for at the Field Medical Training Battalion East’s Combat Simulation Laboratory aboard Camp Johnson, June 29.

The lab is a building with several small rooms, each one equipped with an iStan, which is an advanced mannequin that can breathe, simulate wounds and provide the students with a more realistic casualty scenario. The rooms are all modeled to look like the inside of a mud and rock house.

“We’ve had the sim lab since last year, and it’s a great improvement from what we had before,” said Petty Officer 2rd Class Alton Gehringer, a corpsman with FMTB-E. “Here we use the crawl, walk, run, method as we try and get the students to better deal with the stress they will be facing in combat.”

The first time the students went through the simulation, the lights were on and the instructors took them through the basic steps without any pressure. The second time around some sound was added to increase the stress level a bit. For their final time through, all the lights were shut off, the sound of machine-gun fire and screams could be heard through the loudspeakers and instructors ensured the students were moving at a fast pace.

“Today’s scenario is an ambush, where a unit has been hit by an (improvised explosive device) and the students will have to deal with amputations and a sucking chest wound,” said Gehringer. “We have them simulate applying a tourniquet, moving the casualty out of harm’s way, ensuring the tourniquet is still secure and then looking for any more injuries.”

Although it may sound easy, with the sounds of screams and bullets flashing lights and smoke filling the room, the stress and beads of sweat could be seen on the students’ faces.

With instructors present, the stress level was taken higher, causing some students to apply a tourniquet to a wrong leg or forgetting to maintain a low profile.

“We aren’t just doing this to mess with the students,” said Gehringer. “All of the scenarios we have them go through are based off of our own experiences. Our instructors come here from the fleet, many of them returning from Afghanistan, and when I came here I brought experiences from Iraq. With a different battlefield, we have different scenarios.”

Some of the instructors can remember a time when they came through the schoolhouse and they used other students as casualties. The ‘casualty’ would just have a piece of tape on their leg or chest saying where a sucking chest wound or amputation point was.

“We’ve come a long way from just having a piece of tape on our chest to simulate a wound,” said Gehringer. “With the tools we have here we can try and simulate a combat environment as closely as possible. Many of these students will probably have their boots in the sand six months from now supporting a Marine unit, and it’s our job to ensure that they will be well prepared for anything they will face.”