Marines trained to save lives not take them

22 May 2004 | Lance Cpl. Joseph L. Bush

While lying on a stretcher, Sgt. Donnie A. Crumley flinched several times as Cpl. Carlos Santiago slowly inserted an IV into his arm.

Just minutes earlier, Crumley and Santiago, both mechanics with I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group motor transport, laughed uneasily and joked about not running IVs on each other.

The two Marines are now graduates of a class of 12 Marines in the combat life-savers course.

“We are now able to start the basic life saving steps,” said Crumley, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. “As long as we stay focused we can use this training to help save lives - whether it’s a Marine or civilian.”

The class trains Marines to make split-second decisions and to identify and treat possible fatal wounds when a corpsman is not immediately on the scene.

“It’s a win-win situation for both Marines and sailors,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Miguel A. Delgado, the senior enlisted leader with I MHG Group Aid Station. “We provide the normal person that has no medical experience with the basic training, so they can provide first aid and life-saving measures in the absence of a corpsman.

“It’s been a learning experience for both the students and the medical personnel,” he said.

This is the first time they have been able to run an official course, according to Delgado.

“It’s normally a three- to four-day course at eight hours a day,” he said. “Because of operational tempo and the environment, we had to make it an 11-day course at three to four hours a day.”

Marines are instructed in a wide variety of basic first aid knowledge and treatment techniques for common battlefield injuries.

“It covers CPR control, splinting, IV therapy and a lot of other general medical knowledge,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Ackers, a native of Lynchburg, Va., and a corpsman with I MHG GAS.

To complete the course each Marine must pass both written and practical application tests. At the end of the field test, they must successfully administer an IV on another student.

“It’s uncomfortable to be stuck, but once the IV is in it’s good,” said Crumley. “I’ve gotten used to it by now.”

To recreate battlefield conditions, the instructors set up three stations with simulated casualties. Scenarios included bullet wounds, combat shock and burns.

“On my way to the victim, I was told he had a sucking chest wound and a bullet in the thigh, so I went for the chest wound first,” said Santiago, a native of Philadelphia. “I felt confident about what I did. If it’s a real life thing, your mind goes a hundred-thousand different ways, and it’s more intense.”

For one Marine, it was just a refresher course.

“I have been trained to do most of this stuff, but we never dealt with IVs,” said Lance Cpl. Josh D. Niedermeir, a Summerset, Ill., native, and a crash fire rescue crewmember with the Camp Fallujah Fire department. “It’s good to have practical hands-on training.”