Soldiers of the 58th Quartermaster Company, 240th QM Battalion, 49th QM Group, are honing their first aid skills, the first line of defense for treating the wounded in a combat zone.
More than 100 Soldiers participated in the weeklong field training at Fort A.P. Hill from June 4 – Friday.
“On the battlefield we have to shoot, move and communicate and being able to treat the Soldiers with first aid is key to continuing the mission,” said Capt. Matthew Messerschmitt, 58th commander.
Going all the way to Fort A.P. Hill for the training helps the Soldiers stay focused and avoid the distractions from being too close to home at Fort Lee, Messerschmitt said.
“A lot of the ‘hard chargers’ (Soldiers) haven’t been to the field, and for them to get hands on and set up in a field environment is part of building the warrior spirit,” he said.
Sgt. 1st Class George Branch said the training was an important skill refresher.
“You never know when you have to pack up and leave, and if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” Branch said.
Branch previously deployed to Iraq with a special operations unit and said that he saw how first aid was applied in actual combat.
“Our goal is to get the Soldiers to perform first aid without us,” Branch said.
Noncommissioned officers kept the Soldiers motivated throughout the week by making the classes interesting and the scenarios realistic, Branch said.
“There’s no right or wrong scenarios here, in a war zone you never know what you are going to face, but at least when they get there, it won’t be something new to them,” Branch said.
In the first part of the week, Soldiers took classes on how to perform a variety of first aid techniques such as clearing a casualty’s airway or applying a field dressing. Then, squads of Soldiers walked through the mountainous terrain and tested their knowledge as they faced enemy fire.
NCOs observed the squads and coached them on their techniques, teamwork and how well they secure an area from the enemy.
The training was also an opportunity for young NCOs to hone their leadership skills.
“I have all new E-5s in my platoon, the training brings them together and gives them unity, especially since we have a lot of new Soldiers in the company,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Richards. “It helps the Soldiers because they learn; it helps the squad leaders because they learn how to lead; and it helps the platoon sergeants to evaluate the squad leaders and section sergeants.”
NCOs will be able to identify Soldiers who might need more attention and help them improve, said 1st Sgt. Tim Lebouf.
“You’re always going to have a strong Soldier who picks up right away and some who don’t, and you’ll have to work with those a little more,” Lebouf said.
For combat-veteran Soldiers such as Spc. Warrick Jones, the refresher training was a welcomed event.
“You get some of the basics of first aid in Basic Combat Training, but this is the first time I ever went this far,” Jones said.
“Here you get a little more hands-on with it, going through these lanes and putting you through scenarios, it gets you ready.”
Jones was attached to an infantry unit when he deployed with the 4th Infantry Division in 2006 and said he saw how first aid could save Soldiers lives.
“You’re not going to always get that (medical evacuation) so you have to be medically proficient to save your battle buddy,” Jones said. He reported to the 58th in March 2007.
Pfc. Rosie Franco also reported to the unit about a month ago. She said she likes the training because she gets to evaluate casualties and move out on the wood line as a squad.
“The NCOs are very proficient, and they know what they are teaching us,” Franco said. “We are actually doing the first aid, and the NCOs tell us if we make mistakes.”
Franco came to the 58th from a unit in Korea. She went to the field with the unit, but she said the training wasn’t like this.
“We fought against an (opposition force), but we didn’t deal with treating casualties,” Franco said.
“It’s back to basics here, but I’m also learning new things like how to prevent shock. We touched on preventing shock in Basic Combat Training, but I wasn’t confident about it. And we apply it here under enemy attack.”