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Combat Lifesaver; Step by Step

17 Oct 2008 | Cpl. Jason Spinella

In combat, the proper application of applying a tourniquet and dressing a sucking chest wound are what U.S. Marines and sailors are trained to do in order to save one of their own.

During this year’s annual Amphibious Landing Exercise FY 2009 (PHIBLEX ’09), Marines and sailors with India Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT), 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), held a deliberate Combat Lifesaver Course with Republic of the Philippines Marines assigned to Battalion Landing Team 6, Oct 17.

Both services began the daylong class at approximately 10 a.m., at Philippine Marine Base, Ternate along Cavite’s coastline. Members of Co. I started with a three-hour class lecture outlining the types of lifesaving techniques used in combat. After a brief lunch break, the class went into deliberate practical application.

The MEU service members began by displaying and explaining the items contained in a Marines Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) then discussed the capabilities of using various improvised supplies that could be found in urban or jungle environments such as tampons, sticks and rags.

The training was extremely beneficial as it emphasized that combat wounds can be sustained in an environment where medical technology may not be within arms reach.

“We showed them step-by-step how to use leaves, sticks and rags to dress an open wound or stabilize an extremity that may have sustained wounds,” said Seaman Anthony Weinke, a hospital corpsman with Co. I.

Integrated U.S. and Philippine service members rotated through several stations, where they learned different triage techniques. The techniques included the proper application of a tourniquet, how to dress a sucking chest wound and proper steps in stabilizing the neck during a spinal fracture along with how to administer blood clotting techniques.

The bilateral exchange between both groups was the highlight of the training. U.S. Marines and sailors taught the methods of treating wounds with the medical gear and skills they had learned through prior experience while the Philippine Marines demonstrated their techniques in using improvised equipment. Their improvised equipment ranged from stretchers fabricated from tree limbs and coconut branches to natural remedies derived from local vegetation.

Throughout the exchange, both U.S. and Philippine service members felt feelings of gratification and pride in knowing they could one day save the life of one of their own.

“It feels great knowing that teaching these skills could really save many of these guys’ lives in future combat situations,” added Weinke, a Wolfpoint, Mont. Native.

For the Philippine Marines participating in the training, the feelings were mutual.

“This training is improving our medical procedures and knowledge, and I feel will help us save each others’ lives in ways we didn’t know how to,” said Sgt. Joseph Ramirez, a squad leader with BLT 6, Philippine Marine Corps. “Now all 27 Marines in my platoon know new medical skills and techniques essential for combat survival.”

Both sides truly benefited from the integration training, exchanging one anothers skills and experience taught each other the importance of working together.

“I’ve learned so much today about things you would think you would see on television,” said hospital corpsman 2nd Class Joe Anderson, a corpsman with India Co.  “Its amazing watching the Philippine Marines accomplish the medical mission with the natural supplies they use like Banana tree bark, coconut branches and guava leaves.”

The Combat Lifesaver Course training was apart of Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise ’09, an annual exercise the U.S. Marines and the Armed Forces of the Philippines participate in to harbor and strengthen the long term relationship that exists between both nations.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit