Photo Information

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Owensby, lead instructor of the combat life saver course with I Marine Expeditionary Force, Advisory Training Cell, demonstrates trauma medicine techniques aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 8. The course prioritizes survivability on the battlefield as second only to killing the enemy.

Photo by Cpl. Scott Reel

CLS prioritizes survivability on battlefield

17 Oct 2013 | Cpl. Scott Reel

Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, Motor Transport Company, entered their first combat life saver class of the week aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 7.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Owensby, lead instructor of the Combat Life Saver course with I MEF, Advisory Training Cell, has taught the class for approximately a year.

“It’s a weeklong class in which we run deploying students through our curriculum and get them ready for the real-world battlefield situations in which they might have to treat a casualty,” Owensby said. 

Capt. Edward Ritter, Motor Transport officer for I MHG, participated in the class with his platoon and looked for them to gain confidence with one another.

“Aside from killing the enemy, survivability on the battlefield is the most important thing we do,” Ritter said. “Marines have to trust that if they’re wounded or injured, the Marines around them are going to know what to do, be able to do it efficiently, and get them off the battlefield and survive with the majority of wounds they might sustain. That confidence makes us lethal.” 

Cpl. Taylor Farr, a participant in the CLS course from Motor Transport Company, I MHG, said he took the course once before, prior to a deployment, but luckily never had to use the skills he learned.

“It’s good to see that the people that are going to be out there with you know how to take care of you. Not only can you take care of someone else, but you know that the people there with you can get you out,” Farr said.

Owensby has supervised approximately 15 classes during his involvement with CLS. He oversees a group of instructors who have used the skills of CLS on the battlefield. 

“We like to share our stories with them to let them know what has worked and what hasn’t worked,” he said. “And we really try and let them know that this isn’t just another course. This is something that if you don’t grasp you could actually let your friends die.”

The curriculum offers two days of classroom instruction followed by practical application for the rest of the week and a final scenario the last day.

During more than a week of relaying vital information that could save a friend’s life, Owensby highlighted the most important skill taught in the class.

“The biggest thing that we harp on here at CLS is tourniquet application,” he said. “It is the easiest thing to do to save someone’s life.”

All Marines in combat carry at least one tourniquet at all times along with an individual first aid kit with a variety of medical items.

Aside from applying a tourniquet, the class focuses on an acronym, PMARCH, to save a patient without overlooking any important variable.

The students are instructed to run through the acronym in every situation: patient and scene safety, massive hemorrhage, airway respirations, circulation, head and hypothermia.

“Everybody treats patients and does medicine differently and if you know how each other works you can work better as a team when you’re forward deployed,” Owensby said.

Since most of Marines have no medical experience, the goal at the end of the course is for them to be able to adequately apply a tourniquet in 90 seconds and successfully treat a Marine in combat, Owensby said. 

“I think they did really great, actually,” he said. “A lot of the students come in not knowing really anything whatsoever about medicine, let alone trauma medicine, and when they leave I feel that we’ve really taught them how to actually be able to accomplish the tasks we set out to teach them.”

The course is available for all Marines as a part of annual training. CLS is a group of skills that, if done correctly, could bring an injured service member back to their friends and family.