4th Sustainment Brigade Medics teach Life Saving Skills

Story and Photos by Spc. John D. Ortiz
4th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs Office

FORT HOOD, Texas — The difference between life and death often hinges on the actions of first responders.

Soldiers of the 4th Sustainment Brigade learned the importance of having qualified first responders on the scene, and obtained the skills necessary to perform that duty during a combat lifesaver class taught Dec. 10-14.

“The purpose of CLS is designed to give Soldiers experience with medical techniques to save their buddies when medical personnel are not available in an emergency situation,” said Spc. Benjamin Pina, a CLS instructor with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, “the more CLSs we have, the more chances we have of saving somebody’s life.”

During the CLS class, instructors said 90 percent of combat deaths occur before a patient reaches a medical treatment facility, and of those 90 percent, 15 percent of people can be saved if preventative measures are taken.

The deaths resulting from severe bleeding, collapsed lungs and airway restriction are preventable if a qualified individual can administer aid to an injured Soldier.

With the new improved field aid kit that every Soldier now receives as part of the rapid fielding initiative, the Army has taken steps to prevent those types of injuries, and with CLS qualified Soldiers, the brigade is taking steps to set up its Soldiers for success.

“The toughest thing about CLS is we can’t teach the actual fear of seeing your buddy go down and performing CLS duties on him,” said Pena, “but this class will give Soldiers an edge.”

The first two days were devoted to the three phases of care in a battlefield, where students learned only certain steps were taken in each phase to ensure survival of the casualty and the first responder.

After those days were complete, the class was instructed to recite a 9-line medevac, a radio procedure to request medical personnel to evacuate a casualty, to the class by memory, to teach the students that every second counts when it comes to calling in a medical evacuation.

Once those tasks were complete, the class was instructed on how to initiate an IV.

“It was fun, but I don’t like needles, it was the biggest thing that I had to overcome,” said Pvt. Sean P. Wisely, a member of the 154th Transportation Company, “but I felt that I overcame it a little bit.”

“This was my first time to take any class,” said Wisely, “but I feel prepared because of the instructors.”

“I feel more comfortable [with initiating an IV], if I need to stick somebody I can do it,” he said, “this class is a good way to help out others because [a Soldier] can really make a difference.”

“What we learn in this class, I feel it’s very vital,” said Spc. Scott Hannivig, a motor transport operator with the 154th, “a person really never knows when they are going to have to initiate an IV to save somebody’s life.”

“I learned a few things in this class, but it was mostly a refresher,” said Hannivig “although some will never need to [give an IV,] it’s always good to know.”

“Being in transportation, we are always out on the road in convoys,” he said, “we always ride with battle buddies, and it falls on you to be the first responder, because a medic is not always going to be there.”

“Medical personnel don’t always see the patient first,” said Sgt. Shaun Bennett, Senior CLS instructor for the brigade, “it’s their buddy and if they do certain steps such as controlling bleeding, maintaining an airway, it can buy them time to get help from qualified medical personnel.”

“The hardest thing that we as instructors have to deal with is how to teach Soldiers to take it seriously,” said Bennett.

“This is why we have Soldiers [start IVs on each other] and do lane training, we put the pressure on them to take it seriously,” he said, “so the first time they get their feet wet it isn’t the real thing.”

CLS instructors can only do so much with lane training, so instructors try and emphasize other parts of the training such as IV sticks said Bennett.

“We had a couple Soldiers that had a hard time dealing with needles, and in this class we had a worse case, when [the Soldier] came to us he couldn’t even touch a needle,” said Bennett. 

It depends on the Soldiers, said Bennett, some can be coaxed into doing an IV stick and they will say that it wasn’t that bad.

“Others have to take baby steps such as holding the needle and catheter unit for a couple of minutes, then progress with the needle cap off, and finally work with our training arms to initiate an IV stick, he said.

“Every class we get a couple of soldiers that are afraid of needles,” he said, “we just have to walk them through it  and as long as we build their confidence here usually when they’re out there it will come naturally to them.”

With everything that we teach Soldiers about CLS, they have to remember that their primary duties as a qualified CLS are not to go out and save a life but by doing their job right so they never have to use their skills, said Bennett.