FMTU makes the grass grow

17 Nov 2005 | Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich

Marines, along with medics of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division Medical Training Unit, held a training exercise to teach the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s Foreign Military Training Unit how to apply an intravenous drip on base Nov. 17.

Army Sergeants Nicholas Puetz and Richard Morales, of the 82nd ADMTU, arrived in Camp Lejeune to teach Marines and corpsman a Combat Lifesaving Course, army style. The course covers a variety of injuries likely to emerge on a battlefield. Many corpsman have taken such classes, but are not licensed to teach the course. This course is essentially taught to infantry Marines in the case a corpsman becomes the wounded warrior. With many units breaking off in the battlefield into fire teams or even two-man teams, lifesaving techniques, such as applying IVs, greatly improves the chance of saving the casualty.

About 30 Marines gathered in groups of two around wooden tables, maneuvered about  orange trash bags full of blood soaked pads labeled bio-hazard, and stuck each other with intravenous needles in the pursuit of learning a valuable lifesaving technique.

The Marines getting the IV methodically clenched their hands as veins appeared beneath the skin. They looked away, peered through tightly squinted eyes, and hardly ever looked down to see exactly what their partner was doing as the needle drifted either barely above or just below the skin. Some Marines waited in anguish as the IV was properly put together, at which time the fluid, a saline mix, streamed from an elevated bag, down a tube, through the catheter, and into the bloodstream.

An IV is the quickest way to deliver fluids and medication into the body and is an important factor when saving lives in a war environment.

“This course teaches Marines how to use medical equipment and different procedures they would need in a combat environment,” said Sgt. Jesus Medina, a Miami native and assistant instructor for the combat lifesaver course.

To some, this class was a review. To others, like 1stLt. Christopher Timms, an infantry officer in the newly formed FMTU, it was a learning experience.

“I’d never done it before, but it didn’t bother me. It’s just something you have to do,” Timms said.

However, sticking your buddy in the arm with a needle was not as simple as some Marines would have hoped. If a Marine missed the vein or went completely through it, they had a second chance to try again but not on the same vein. Sometimes the IV’s were defective, which meant the Marine had to try again. This was the scenario for Lance Cpl. Cris Wilson, an infantryman from El Paso, Texas, when the catheter covering the needle was bent. His partner, Lance Cpl. Guillermo Lopez, bled … and bled a lot. Lopez was confident in Wilson and bravely sacrificed his other arm. This time, Wilson got it.

Lopez, an infantryman and member of FMTU’s Team 1, from Tampa, Fla., calmly stated, “If we get out there and a person loses a lot of fluid due to an injury, we’ll give them an IV to keep them alive.”

Fluid is extremely important to someone that has lost a lot of blood, and these Marines are now capable of delivering this fluid. This class will help save lives on the battlefield, said Medina.