October 3, 2007

ROTC Course Aims to Save Lives in Combat

Print More

Despite the blood stains and the plastic tube intravenously delivering saline into his arm, Luke Sanderson, a sophomore at Elmira College, appeared calm. Safely situated in a classroom of Barton Hall, Sanderson and other sophomore members of the Reserve Officer Training Corp had no reason for alarm. But this would hardly be the reality in a combat situation.
For the first time, Cornell’s sophomore members of ROTC are participating in a Combat Lifesavers course. During yesterday’s class, students hooked their fellow classmates up to intravenous saline lines. Though some looked nervous at the sight of blood, others looked confident, and many were relieved to have this basic training. “I’m glad blood came out and I got [the needle] in the vein,” said one student after performing the I.V. on a classmate.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Darnell Owens, a sophomore at S.U.N.Y Cortland. “If I were going into combat, I would have wanted this,” he said.
“Don’t let me down,” Owens said to his partner while on the receiving end of the needle.
While said light-heartedly, the words echo the purpose behind the course. “Not every convoy has a medic … the person next to you is the person most likely to provide you with immediate care,” said Major Richard Brown.
In a combat situation, soldiers are forced to rely on each other. The CLS course prepares ROTC students to provide a basic level of care “so that [the wounded] can get to the next level of care,” said Brown.
Once a solider makes it to a Medical Treatment Facility, he or she then has a 95 percent chance of survival, which is why the 15 to 30 minutes following an injury are so crucial.
The course teaches students to stop severe bleeding, clear an obstructed airway and to inject saline solution into a patient. But this course is not an average first aid course. As the course title implies, there is a “combat” component. The CLS training is “in addition to being a solider,” said Brown. Students are reminded that a soldier’s primary mission is his combat mission, and that on a battlefield, the best medicine is not I.V., but superior firepower.
The circumstances and the types of injuries are also different from civilian injuries. To simulate combat situations, students will be given “situational training” at Fort Drum in Upstate New York later this October where they will evaluate a casualty in a validation room filled with smoke, debris and noise.
“Forget the protocols learned during Emergency Medical Training … this is a little different,” said Major Bryan Miller.
EMT is restrictive in the tasks that certified members can perform with legal protection, but in combat situations, where treating a solider is a life or death situation, “we’re not worried about being sued like a civilian industry,” he said.
Captain Charles Crusha agreed that the focus of the course was different than that of other first aid courses. Students, for example, are not taught CPR, because the chances of revival are slim. Instead, students are taught to “treat someone they can save,” said Crusha.