Photo Information

PO2 James Gafford, an instructor with 2nd Medical Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, creates anxiety for a Marine treating the simulated casualty during the testing phase of a four-day Combat Life Savers class aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 5 2015. Marines in the class were taught emergency combat medicine with the intent that in a casualty situation they can apply lifesaving procedures in the case a corpsman cannot reach the wounded. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia McDonald/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia McDonald

Casualty Chaos: Marines develop lifesaving skills

6 Mar 2015 | II Marine Expeditionary Force

Marines with 2nd Medical Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force completed a four-day long CLS class with a written exam and a finale “kill-house” scenario with simulated casualties aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 5, 2015.

Fog seeps from the doorway of a dark room. The battlefield sounds make it difficult to think. Blood trails lead out the door where its donors can be found. Simulated bombs, the sound of gunfire, screams and fog are just some of the stressful factors Marines must battle while completing the final exam of their Combat Life Saver class.

Marines with 2nd Medical Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force completed a four-day long CLS class with a written exam and a finale “kill-house” scenario with simulated casualties aboard Camp Lejeune, N. C., March 5, 2015.

“The combat life savers class is our version of a medical class for Marines taught by corpsmen,” said HM3 Matthew Fairbanks, an instructor with 2nd Medical and native of Spokane, Washington. “We teach emergency combat medicine, whatever is needed to get (the casualty) out of there and keep them alive.”

Different interventions to stop hemorrhaging and clear breathing complications are the focus of the class as these are some of the most common injuries seen on the battlefield. It begins with class work, didactics and hands-on learning before students reach the culminating event.

In the scenario, patients are put in a bloodied dark room filled with fog, according to Fairbanks. The students have to go in and conduct care under fire before moving the wounded to a casualty collection point where they complete their full emergency medical assessment.

“We try to put as much stress on them as possible,” Fairbanks said. “We involve every aspect that we can think of: loud noises, gunshots, explosions; anything to get their heart going as if they’re in the real situation.”

During the event, students struggle to treat the patients with shaky hands and second guessing themselves as they experience a sensory overload and struggle to think clearly and act accordingly.

“After doing physical training your heart rate is up, your hands are shaking, and all you’re thinking is about where you need to go, what you have to do,” said Cpl Joshua Carpenter, a training NCO with 2nd Medical and native of Apopka, Florida. “While you’re taking care of the actual casualty you’re trying to block out everything going on around you while you are trying to do what you are taught.”

The lesson of the course is to handle life threatening injuries, according to Fairbanks. Students who pass the class know the minimal procedures to keep a patient alive until a corpsman can reach them or they can be evacuated out of the combat zone.

“It’s basically more advanced training from what we learn in boot camp,” Carpenter said. “Rather than relying on the corpsman… we are actually able to step in and assist. I think it makes me a better asset to the unit I deploy with.”

With this training fellow Marines can feel assured they will receive the necessary care if they are ever injured in combat.

“This is important because when Marines go out in combat they usually only have one corpsman. If they are preoccupied with one patient but have more, we don’t want that patient waiting,” Fairbanks said. “If I were to go down then it’s just them, so they need to know as much as they can to keep their friends alive and bring them back to their families.”

CLS classes give Marines the knowledge and confidence needed to save lives in the combat environment they are so often in.