Learning to save lives
Scenario: shots ring out as a local guide is wounded, the Australian patrol returns fire as their combat first aider drags the casualty to the relative cover of a creek line. A tourniquet is applied to stem the bleeding before the casualty is dragged by two soldiers into better cover for extra treatment.
Soldiers have gained vital medical skills during the three-week combat first aider course at Lavarack Barracks, Queensland. The scenario based training is designed to give soldiers additional skills in first aid.
Private Sean Fuller was one of 30 soldiers tying tourniquets, strapping bandages and carrying “casualties” during the course.
“It’s advanced first aid,” he said. “It’s basically how to save your mates.
“It goes beyond treating broken ankles and snakebites; this is how the body works and how to put lifesaving measures in. Also how to be the person to go to if things get messy out field.
“Until the casualty has been taken over by medical officers you’re the one that keeps them alive; you know more stuff to keep them alive than a normal Army first aider.”
The practical nature of the course meant people were interested in what was being taught, according to Private Fuller.
“It’s good because you kind of want to learn,” he said. “Sometimes you get a lecture and you put it out of your brain, but this is stuff you can actually use.
“I love first aid, I have an accident-prone family with little ones and grandparents so it will be good to know how to help them.”
During the course, trainees were put through several scenarios including Care of the Battle Casualty.
“It’s different to just sitting about looking at a PowerPoint,” Private Fuller said. “It puts you under the pump and gets you back to basic drills.
“You’re getting them into cover, making sure they’re breathing, making sure they’re conscious and stopping the bleeding.
“You’re pretty much doing everything you can to keep them alive no matter what’s going on around you.”
But Private Fuller didn’t see the mass casualty scenario coming at the end where a third of the course members were wounded.
“They told us we weren’t going to be doing that and me being as fresh as I am believed it.”
Private Fuller said the staff were experienced and approachable.
“They’ve got a lot of experience, they’ve been on deployments and done this sort of stuff,” he said. “They’re good if you’re struggling with something or you’ve got a random question.
“The training’s not limited to getting shot; on exercises people are bitten by snakes or go down with heat and you’re there as a support element.”
Combat first aider courses are run by 1st Close Health Battalion at multiple times each year and are open to soldiers in combat, combat support and combat service support units.