January 14, 2009

429th BSB Soldiers certify as combat lifesavers

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

429th BSB Combat Lifesaver

Staff Sgt. Richard Emery instructs Soldiers taking part in the Combat Lifesaver Course on the proper way to administer an IV. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Nearly 100 Soldiers assigned to the Danville-based 429th Brigade Support Battalion certified as combat lifesavers during training conducted Jan. 10 and 11 at Fort Pickett.

“Combat lifesaver is a warfighting skill that every warrior needs to have in their arsenal of tools,” said Lt. Col. Michael Swanson, commander of the 429th.

During combat lifesaver training, Soldiers are trained and evaluated on first aid skills like applying bandages to control bleeding, proper use of a tourniquet, moving a casualty using an improvised litter and administering an IV, said Sgt. Colleen Brown of Portsmouth, one of the combat medics serving as an instructor for the training. Brown has been conducting combat lifesaver training since 2003.

In addition to receiving a “go” on the hands-on training, Soldiers must also pass a 40-question written test to be a certified combat lifesaver, Brown said.

According to Army field training manuals, the role of the combat lifesaver is to provide immediate far-forward first aid to prevent soldiers from dying of wounds.  A combat lifesaver is a nonmedical soldier trained to provide advanced first aid and lifesaving procedures beyond the level of self-aid or buddy aide, and is not intended to take the place of medical personnel.

429th BSB Combat Lifesaver

Administering an IV is one of the most challenging elements of the Combat Lifesaver Course. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Swanson said the battalion tries to conduct the combat lifesaver training two to three times a year. In addition to training the battalion, Soldiers from the Charlottesville-based C Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion also conduct the training for Soldiers throughout the entire 116th Brigade Combat Team.

The Army has placed greater emphasis on combat lifesaver training in recent years, Swanson said. Every Soldier going through basic training received combat lifesaver training, and it is also required for every Soldier prior to mobilizing for overseas federal duty.

“Having these guys trained as combat lifesavers takes a lot of pressure off me, and I can depend on them to handle getting a guy triaged and giving me the information I need to provide care,” said Sgt. Jeffrey A. McDaniel of Roanoke. McDaniel is currently assigned to A Company, 429th BSB as a combat medic and assisted with the training. He previously served as a combat medic on supply convoys in Iraq with E Company, 429th BSB.

In addition to being a critical skill in combat, Swanson said the training has been helpful in non-combat situations. “Soldiers can and have used their combat lifesaver skills in their civilians lives, coming to the aid of their family, friends or fellow employees where advanced first aid skills were needed.,” Swanson said.

429th BSB Combat Lifesaver

Pfc. Jessica Dawn Archer prepares to have a fellow Soldier administer an IV during the Combat Lifesaver Course. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Combat lifesavers can provide immediate care to an injured Soldier until medical personnel arrive on the scene.  Brown deployed with D Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, and she recalled how a combat lifesaver rendered the first treatment care to a fellow Soldier injured in the unit motor pool before medical personnel arrived on the scene.

Many of the Soldiers had no prior experience with administering an IV, but by the end of the training felt confident they could effectively respond and perform the skill if they needed to.

“I have seen this done on TV, but I have never really known how to do it,” said Pfc. Jessica Dawn Archer of Danville, a supply specialist assigned to the Headquarters Company, 429th BSB. “If anyone needed an IV, I feel like I could do it. We learn how to do this in the field and help save a life. I go to college and work in a coffee shop, but I can stick an IV in someone and never been to college for that. I think that is a pretty amazing thing I have learned.”

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