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Security forces hone skills through realistic training

Airman 1st Class Nadine Rudke guards the perimeter of a casualty collection point during a combat medical skills exercise Jan. 19 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.  Airman Rudke is an 823rd Security Forces Squadron fire team member.   (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

Airman 1st Class Nadine Rudke guards the perimeter of a casualty collection point during a combat medical skills exercise Jan. 19 at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Airman Rudke is an 823rd Security Forces Squadron fire team member. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Parker Gyokeres)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNEWS) -- Five Airmen lie broken, bleeding and screaming for help along the smoke obscured tree line, while gunfire cracks overhead and thunderous mortar blasts shake the ground at terrifyingly irregular intervals.

Through the smoke, a dismounted squad urgently approaches. The scene that confronts them is a roll call of traumatic injuries.

The rescuers have to quickly sort out the serious from the able and decide who to assist first. If they take too long, these Airmen will die.

This is the fifth time this unlucky foot patrol has been ambushed today, and they are getting very good at dying. They are role players for the combat medical readiness training course taught by the 823rd Security Forces Squadron.

The entire squadron participated in a four-day combat medical skills training course Jan. 15 to 19, preparing them for medical treatment in the face of nearly any battlefield emergency.

"It's a sort of self-aid buddy care on steroids," said Capt. Darrell Svatek, 823rd SFS medical cell physician's assistant. "It is likely the most realistic training squadron members will receive in combat medicine."

The exercise featured a small squad of five Airmen who were "ambushed" and "sustained" the most dangerous combat injuries likely to be encountered. There also were Airmen with less severe injuries. These "injured" role-players tested the responding squad's abilities to diagnose life-threatening injuries, said Captain Svatek.

"We have presented this exercise in terms of events that are happening to people in theater," he said. "Analysis of combat injuries has shown that these are the things that cause the most risk of death and kill you the fastest."

Using a series of practical classroom exercises leading up to the final scenario, 823rd SFS Airmen received training in the proper usage of every item in their individual first aid kit to treat the injuries.

During the classroom lectures, they learned how to implement the three phases of battlefield care.

The first phase, known as care under fire, is simply the act of securing the scene so they can deploy into the area. Often, Airmen injured in a firefight are still in a "hot" area when help arrives, explained Captain Svatek.

"We are going in there to extract five injured Airmen, we don't want more than five injured people to come out," he said.

The second phase is tactical field care, he said. This involves using the equipment that is carried into the field to administer life-saving aid. If the extent of the injuries exceeds the resources in the kit being carried, the security forces members use their training to fashion more aggressive tools from what is readily available.

"The main point of this is to get the patient able to be moved to a safer area as rapidly as possible," said Captain Svatek.

The final stage is evac care, which involves moving the patient to a safer casualty collection area and stabilizing him or her for an evacuation. From start to finish, the process should last no longer than 10 minutes, said Captain Svatek.

The training, held at least annually, is regarded as essential by both the medics and the security forces members who receive it.

"When this type of first aid is needed, somebody's life is at stake. It would feel really horrible coming back to America without them because I didn't know what I was doing," said Senior Airman Thelma Christmas, 823rd SFS member. "This is probably one of the most important parts of the training that we get here. I take it pretty seriously."

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