Team Medic Training the Reality of War

The sound of explosions and gunfire screams through the air as CHF personnel come under fire while attempting to recover an aircraft hit by the enemy. CHF personnel have to contemplate and train for this type of scenario – one that could have materialised for a number of engineers in 2009 when they recovered a helicopter from 846 NAS which had been hit by a Taliban RPG. Whilst no serious injuries were sustained in the attack it is in these scenarios that aviators, engineers, and Royal Marines receive Team Medic training.

The aim of the training is to ensure they’re able to provide immediate medical assistance to their comrades. Preparing personnel for deployments is the responsibility of the CHF medical team, led by CPO MA Jim Hopkins, who provides a scenario that replicates an incident in Theatre.

To make training as realistic as possible, personnel treated real amputee casualties “It brings a real sense of realism.” said Jim. “The amputees certainly enhance the training we can give our guys. This is about eliminating the shock factor: The initial pregnant pause can make all the difference in saving a life.”

The actors from Amputees in Action (AIA) are made up with gory imitation blood and have their missing limbs dressed to resemble traumatic wounds. AIA is the UK’s largest collection of trained professional amputee actors. They use their personal trauma experience to enable graphic realism for military and emergency services training.

“After the initial attack a cordon is put in place and the guys work fast to apply pressure to the femoral artery to stem initial bleeding. They have to treat the injury and apply a tourniquet to control the circulation.” explained CPO Hopkins.” This simple band, considered old fashioned 20 years ago, is now saving lives. The guys taking part in this training have no idea what to expect. It’s as real as we can make it.”

Nick Pool lost his right leg in an accident when he was serving in the Navy. He has been acting for five years. “I really enjoy it.” said Nick as he received a top up of imitation blood. “I see it as giving something back. As an ex-navy lad I appreciate how useful this training will be. When I lost my leg the person who saved my life was reassuring and totally professional. The medics changed me from a gibbering wreck to being rather calm. I believe that saved my life.”

The acting skills of the AIA are very impressive. They roll around, screaming and groaning as the trainee medics attempt to apply emergency treatment to stop haemorrhaging. They don’t make it easy for the trainees who are being assessed by the CHF Medics. If they fail to communicate with the actors they will drift into unconsciousness or panic and fight off those that are trying to treat them.

“The amputees can actually see things we’ve missed.” said LMA Joel Magory, who is assessing and training. “They are able to tell us what the treatment was like. The drill is about saving lives. In combat it is more likely that the person who saves your life will be the person stood next to you as the medics could be further back, so everyone needs these skills. There is an incredible survival rate in Theatre and that is down to the first initial treatment received in the field.”

Lt John Ford, who is preparing to deploy to for the first time explained, “Working on the amputees is something totally new. It is incredible how real it all feels. It may have been training but when you are carrying out the drills and come face to face with the casualty, it certainly focuses your mind.”

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