"Down time" could be life saver for BLT 2/2 corpsmen

29 Oct 2006 | Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock

Navy corpsmen from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Battalion Landing Team 2/2 took time from the ongoing Composite Training Unit Exercise today to perform a refresher course on basic medical requirements that could save a Marine's life.

The course covered basic first aid techniques, items in an individual first aid kit, and proper use of tourniquets.

Chief Petty Officer John H. Buckner, BLT 2/2's Chief Corpsman, said the courses covered general military knowledge, which was important because it could save lives and the corpsmen can take the training and give it to their Marines, making them more capable of dealing with battlefield injuries.

"[The Marines] already know how to put steel on target," he said, "this is in case one of their Marines gets hit, so they can save his life."

The training included lessons learned by corpsmen and Marines in Iraq.

Petty Officer Third Class Kenneth J. Russell, a corpsman in BLT 2/2, put together the training outline based on his personal experiences in Iraq.

He said many of his Marines in Iraq were wary of what they would see when they went outside of their forward operating bases, and one of his staff sergeants asked him to put together a training program to teach and reinforce basic first aid procedures during down time.

After putting together statistics based on the makeup of Marine rifle squads and patrols in Iraq, Russell found that even with an optimal two corpsmen per platoon, there was a 96 percent chance a Marine, not a corpsman, would be the first responder to an injured Marine.

Based on those statistics, Russell created his program, which is based on the battle triage system.

He said the battle triage system, unlike a hospital triage system, identifies and treats the least serious injuries first, and the Marine can be returned to the fight as quickly as possible, giving the corpsman more time to treat the seriously injured.

The problem was, "Most Marines will normally just step back, yell 'Corpsman!' and let us handle it," Russell said.

Russell said those situations cause problems because a corpsman can only treat one injury at a time.

Because the law of averages states the first responder to a wounded Marine will probably be another Marine, "The ability of that Marine to understand treatment and severity of the wound is paramount," he said.

Russell spoke of one instance his training directly impacted a casualty.

"In Iraq, I had a lance corporal get hit. He was in the front of the formation and I was in the rear," he said. "By the time I got there, it was almost fifteen minutes later, and he was already wrapped up with his injuries catalogued. All I had to do was tighten the bandages and call for an [evacuation]."

The corpsmen and Marines of the 26th MEU are nearing the completion of a grueling six-month predeployment training period designed to forge the disparate elements of the MEU into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force. Along with the Bataan Expeditionary Group, the 26th MEU will continue to train for a scheduled 2007 deployment in the Global War on Terror.

For more news, information and video on the 26th MEU please visit www.usmc.mil/26meu.