MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- During a routine convoy operation while heading down a dusty road half a world away, the scene suddenly erupts into a chaotic nightmare as a roadside bomb explodes near the vehicles. A Marine is down and the shouted pleas for a corpsman seem to dissolve into the smoke and dust.
Kneeling beside him, the downed Marine complains of chest pains, but does not appear to be badly injured. With the corpsman running from the other end of the convoy and knowing seconds count, will you later ask, “Could I have done more?”
Although this is a possible scenario Marines may find themselves in, the more than 100 “Rhinos” of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 who underwent the Combat Aidsman Course know how to put their advanced medical training to use and hopefully will be unable to answer “yes” to that question.
Squadron hospital corpsmen recently graduated 25 more Marines at the squadron aid station and classrooms as the Marines completed the three-day hands-on class Nov. 22.
“On the battlefield, a corpsman might not be able to respond to a casualty based on the situation, so what this does is equip the Marine with that knowledge to help a buddy,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Thomas M. Allen, a MWSS-374 hospital corpsman and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, native, who helped design and implement the course 10 months ago. “The class is designed to teach Marines advanced medical procedures for use on the battlefield.”
“This really empowers the Marines,” he said. “These procedures they learn are really not that complex, so if they can successfully perform these in combat, then they can definitely save lives.”
With the course going nearly every two months and training about 25 Marines at a time, the curriculum has continuously evolved and grown and includes a multitude of scenarios and skills Marines must learn.
Those include treating traumas, airway and breathing, circulation, burns, extremity injuries, combat stress and handling tactical triage situations.
Marines also brushed up on skills such as splints, patient movement and learned to effectively use their new first aid kits. Additionally, the Rhinos learned and practiced how to perform intravenous injections on one another.
“An IV is a challenging procedure to learn, and they won’t be doing that in the field,” said Navy Lt. Craig Schranz, MWSS-374 flight surgeon and New City, N.Y., native. “This sort of gives them the chance to be a corpsman for a day and try something new. Many at first were against the IVs, but by the end I think it was everyone’s favorite part.
“But evidence shows that in combat, getting an injured Marine to a treatment facility quickly and greatly improves his chances for survival,” added Schranz. “By treating these Marines to be combat aidsmen, we are making them into a force multiplier. They can now perform these skills and hopefully bring another Marine home.”
During convoy operations on their next deployment to Iraq, Rhinos’ corpsmen plan to place medical kits throughout convoy vehicles for their combat aidsmen to use.
“I feel that this training is going to help us a lot,” said Cpl. David A. Johnson, an MWSS-374 heavy equipment operator, Engineer Company. “The doc can’t be at all the places all of the time, so that makes us more confident.
“It essentially took that basic first aid knowledge we learned in boot camp and expanded it a lot,” said Johnson, who went through the latest cycle for the class. “I feel some was a good refresher, but a lot of it was new stuff that’s going to be useful. I think everyone should take it, that way there are more people out there who have the knowledge to handle a casualty situation.”
For Schranz, watching the Marines enjoy their time and learn these skills is a source of personal pride and accomplishment.
“The Marines are coming in and they really seem to care about this information,” he said. “They want to be able to provide the best possible care they can for their buddies. This gives them a chance to not have to say, ‘I wish I could have done more.’”