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Cutting edge course sharpens Marines' first aid

7 Mar 2008 | Cpl. GP Ingersoll

Dane E. Kaehler can save your son's life in a combat zone. But he isn't a corpsman or a doctor.

 Cpl. Kaehler is an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and he is one of more than 20 servicemembers who graduated from the U.S. Army's cutting edge Combat Lifesaver Course here March 6.

 "This particular course was leaps and bounds better than the previous ones I've had," said Kaehler, a security team leader, 3/7.

 Kaehler explained that the course offered a level of realism in which a student isn't usually immersed.

 "There were fog machines, strobe lights, the smell of urine, blood, vomit and (feces). The dummies could even talk to you," said Kaehler, 22, San Ramon, Calif.

 Toward the end of the course, students find themselves thrust into a room filled with "casualties." These dummies, or simulation mannequins, feel human in almost every possible way: they have a pulse, exhale, cry and spurt blood.

 By use of a microphone, instructors can scream, complain or explain their medical problems through the dummy's mouth. And the school here is in the process of installing surround-sound speakers and subwoofers, which would add the realism of a combat environment.

 "It's called stress inoculation," said Kaehler. "You learn how to cope with it ... so you don't get stressed when game time comes. You don't get stressed and panic because you've been there before."

 Kaehler said the realism, coupled with a low student to teacher ratio, increased the effectiveness of the course. There was also more hands-on practical application.

 "In previous courses, I've never been able to practice chest needle decompression," said Cpl. Austin D. Eubanks, 19, Jonesboro, Ark. "This training will be absolutely essential in the future."

 Eubanks, a team leader with 3/7, learned enough medical terminology and practical application to confuse just about anybody. After the first day, these Marines used words and phrases such as unilateral breathing, hemorrhage and chest needle decompression like they were rattling off weapon nomenclature.

 The other Marines couldn't believe how much students learned in just three days, said Eubanks. That meant Eubanks and Kaehler had a new responsibility.

 "I'm definitely going to pass it on to my junior Marines," said Eubanks.

 Kaehler said that passing it on is essential because of the fluid nature of war fighting. Corpsman can only handle a certain amount of injuries at a time. But the unpredictable is always possible, and combat can confront Marines with mass casualties or even worse.

 "Who's to say the corpsman's not going to go down, then who's going to save him," said Eubanks.

 You are, Eubanks. You and all the Marines you teach.