A word synonymous with healthcare and combat, is one that can be heard being shouted from the frontlines of the battlefield—signaling a fallen combatant in desperate need of medical treatment.
Service members must trust in the ability of whoever runs towards the fire, dodging bullets and explosives, when this word is shouted. Thus, medics must always be ready to risk their lives to save another when chaos ensues.
In the pursuit of maintaining full spectrum readiness and remaining the world’s preeminent fighting force, members from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, participated in a joint-service Tactical Combat Care Casualty course Nov. 14-16.
As the standard of care for combat casualties within the Department of Defense, TCCC is designed to reduce preventable combat deaths by teaching life-saving trauma care techniques used on the battlefield.
“TCCC helps the percentage of our brothers and sisters returning home to their families,” said Master Sgt. Michael Abesada, an aerospace medical service specialist assigned to the 927th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, and course instructor. “We want to return our members home sitting on a chair in an aircraft, not in a case with a flag draped over them.”
The course, which will eventually replace self-aid buddy care, covers three primary objectives or phases of care: care under fire, tactical field care and tactical evacuation.
“Throughout the course, we try to mimic things they might see out there in the real world from improvised explosive devices to contact with opposing forces and teach them how to provide medical care in those conditions,” Abesada added. “It’s hard to replicate battlefield conditions, but our goal is to create stress.”
Having taught the course for the past five years, MacDill has enhanced the training by adding a third day to the usual two-day course.
”We designed the course on a crawl, walk, run basis,” Abesada said. “The first day is all knowledge-based, the second day they put that knowledge to work and the last day they are thrown into a stressful environment with weapons, sounds and other controlled chaos.”
The culminating event evaluates the students on patrolling, and medical procedures like packing wounds and applying tourniquets. They are also tested on medical evacuation procedures, all while in a simulated battlefield.
“The instructors did a really good job at providing us with the necessary mental and physical stature needed to accomplish the mission in a deployed environment,” said Senior Airman Brandon Michael, a laboratory technician assigned to the 6th Medical Support Squadron. “Critical care doesn’t have to be in a deployed environment, it can be paying attention to details when providing care for a patient in your average clinic.”
As the Department of Defense institutes a TCCC training requirement to be completed for all deployable members, the course will expand and continue to include more and more members of sister services.
“We are teaching with equipment that is standard with every branch so that if our students deploy with another branch, they know exactly what’s in their first-aid kit,” Abesada said. “There’s only one way to put a band-aid on a wound—sticky side down.”
TCCC importance falls on ensuring military personnel entering combat possess the skillset to save lives and continue the fight, making the military a lethal force.
“Right now about 12 to 13 percent of deaths involving hemorrhage could have been prevented with further training,” Abesada said. “Making this course a requirement DOD-wide is going to help ensure the survivability rate increases because 12 percent, five percent, or even one percent is too high when it comes to service members not returning home.”
This training is available at MacDill twice a year and it is open to medical and non-medical personnel from all branches of service to include active duty, guardsmen and reservists.