Friday, November 10, 2006
Combat medics train to save lives on battlefield























Seeing a soldier cry is an unsettling experience, no matter the circumstances. I walked into the bathroom at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and saw three young, uniformed women shedding tears over the sinks. These soldiers were in the middle of their 16 weeks of combat medic training.

Judging from their conversation, they had just come from an embassy bombing, a simulated scenario of a bombing, that is. Eight medics rush in to care for 13 "casualties" in low light and loud noise. They had made several mistakes. Some patients didn't make it. Fortunately, here in training, the patients are plastic mannequins.

The U.S. Army is training more combat medics faster and harder than ever before. The days here are grueling: 4:30 a.m. rise and shine for the medics in training; 5:30 a.m. physical training; 7:30 a.m. breakfast; class from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 9:30 p.m. lights out.

These medics have to absorb an incredible amount of information and skill in a short period of time. In just 16 weeks, they are expected to have the same psychomotor skills as a second-year medical resident.

In many ways, the combat medic training program is a testament to the cold fact that war often brings medical advances. Doctors, nurses, medics, combat lifesavers are all forced to innovate under the extreme conditions of battlefield medicine. The good news in this war is that the rate of soldiers being killed on the battlefield is lower and the rate of recovery higher than ever before due to innovative approaches.

In our report linked above, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spends time in combat medic training. We explain how the program, along with new products and groundbreaking research, is helping to save more lives on the battlefield and eventually back at home.
Posted By Chris Gajilan, CNN Senior Medical Producer: 10:00 AM ET
  29 Comments
Hi Chris:
This program training the soldiers to treat injuries at the scene sounds like a wonderful idea. It's scary though to think that a simulated bombing and mistakes made brought these women to tears. It must take bravery above and beyond for them to face the reality of applying their knowledge in the war zone. At least the Military is trying to prepare them for what may lie ahead and I congratulate Dr. Gupta for all his fine work in these areas.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 10:12 AM ET
It is encouraging to see that progress are being made to save more soldiers but it is still disturbing to see the injuries they sustain.
We live in a society that whorships celebrities. I can appreciate the great work a singer or actor does but not whorship them. I have tremendous respect and admiration for those who do amazing work in the shadow, in silence. They are the true heroes.
My grand-father was a chemist and did research for the government. During WWII, they were sending to the lab parts of tires,trucks,anything they could find to try and built stronger the equipment. His job was to find an alternative to rubber, because it bounces. He discovered a kind of synthetic rubber with a doctor. He was in books and articles but was so shy about it. Low profile. That are the true heroes. I'm trying to find those books, a lot where destroyed after his death. But the doctors, working in war areas,in the heath of the moment,are amazing. What they see is horrific. I hope they get support when they come back. I am glad for progress. I'll be happier if we see some peace in our lifetime.

Joanne Ranzell
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne Ranzell Laval Quebec : 10:51 AM ET
Hi Chris,
My hat's off to these brave men and women who must see trauma in ways none of us will ever comprehend. I appreciate their service and am grateful that the troops are given their lifesaving care. Bless them all. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:02 AM ET
It's Veterans Day weekend. Thank you to all Veterans for your service. Thank you Dad..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif : 12:06 PM ET
What is being done about the dichotomy between the military's "kill the enemy" mentality and the new "save who you can" mentality? Are soldiers to shoot and then run over and heal? Medics are about life, armys are about death, there is no way around that. We wouldn't have confused soldiers, posing as life savers if there were no war. BRING OUR FAMILIES HOME!
Posted By Anonymous Rory, Simpsonville, SC : 12:22 PM ET
Reality v. doing lunch in DC. Guess who my heroes are.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 12:24 PM ET
Britney Spear's divoring...Reese Witherspoon divorcing...Madonna adopting...Kirstie Alley in a bikini on Oprah....Denise Richards throwing laptops off ledges...

These are the stories that were listed on CNN this week. Am I guilty of actually reading them? Yes and I am ashamed. Our media has just as much if not more responsibility than our government for providing the public the truth and the truth is we are in a war where our nameless, faceless soldiers are dying. Their deaths are not peaceful but instead full of violence we citizens cannot grasp. Maybe if the media starts reporting on these true human tragedies and printing the pictures of coffins being sent home, then maybe just maybe nearly all of America would be on the same page regarding this senseless, pointless war. Stop trying to put the blinders and earmuff on the public and give us the hard, cold facts. That is true journalism.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills CA : 12:35 PM ET
Hi Chris~
These military medics are simply amazing! The video is impressive as well as the piece from last night's 360 about the medics in the E.R. These men and women should be proud that they are saving so many of our brave soldier's lives. God bless them. Their job is tough. I would imagine that they would all suffer from PTS. Let us all remember these young heros as Veteran's Day approaches and keep them in our prayers everyday. I also pray that people around the world can find peace in their hearts. "It is well that war is so terrible; else we would grow too fond of it."~ Robert E. Lee
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 12:55 PM ET
My son is a combat medic recently returned from Iraq. It is with great pride that we welcomed him home. When I saw him hug a young soldier who had been injured and returned home earlier but was walking, in a large part due to my son's quick treatment, it was worth every tear I shed while he was gone. He is not a "confused soldier, posing as a life saver". He is a proud American soldier, doing his job, and taking care of other human beings. Thank you to all our servicemen and women, who have served in the past and serve our country now. It is because of them we have the freedom to express our opinions. Thank you.
Posted By Anonymous Jody, Oblong, Illinois : 1:03 PM ET
In response to Rory---

It seems that you are differentiating between medics and the army. Let me be the one to say that a medic is a soldier just like anyone else in the army. A medics mission objective may be different than an infantry soldier, but both are from the same organization.
Under certain circumstances, a medic may be required to "kill the enemy". A medic can use lethal force to protect themselves and the lives of their patients.
The combat life saver is a not a medic, but a soldier that has a different primary job in addition to some medical skills. Their objective would be to come to the aid of wounded soldiers if the medic is wounded, killed, or busy working on other casualties.
The motto of the medic is to "Conserve Fighting Strength". That is to take care of your own first, then civilians. Medics even take care of enemy combatants, but only after treating the other two mentioned above.
I am proud to have seved as a medic in the army and to being a veteran of the first Gulf war. But I'm even more proud of the soldiers and particulary the combat medics serving in the middle east now.
Posted By Anonymous Chuck, Colonial Heights, Va : 1:34 PM ET
They train for only 16 weeks? That is alot to learn in such a short amount of time. The pressure to recall all the training info and perform in the field like a nurse or doctor is intense indeed.

Chris, thank you for posting the video.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve Matthews, El Paso, TX : 1:59 PM ET
I AM a combat medic. I applaud your coverage on our training, however, I can tell you that no amount of training can prepare you or me for the reality of caring for soldiers on the battle field. Simulation may help to train to standard, but mannequins don't cry, hurt, plead, or die. I've recently returned from deployment in Mosul, Iraq and am grateful for the opportunity to have placed my training into practice, I've done my job to the best of my abilities. I commend these young soldiers who will soon go there and hope that they take their training seriously, our job in Iraq is not done. Thank you for bringing our service to light.
Posted By Anonymous SGT Laura Cazares, Fort Irwin, California : 2:00 PM ET
It is incredible what the medics are doing in Iraq. They are heros!
Posted By Anonymous jess, paris, ky : 2:04 PM ET
You've hit the sweet spot for me.

The only way to find meaning in war is to show me something good that will come from it. Show me the people voting and building a new country and I'll support that.

And show me segments like this where we are reminded that trauma care always advances in the battlefield. I still have to hate the war that destroys so much but I admire the part of human nature that wants somehow to survive and learn from the horror it has witnessed.

May heaven help those men and women, soldiers and medics, who are the very definition of grit and courage -- grace under pressure.
Posted By Anonymous Cara, Houston, TX : 3:05 PM ET
Hats off to all the courageous medical staff who endure so much to care for those who represent our countries.

The segment on 360 last night certainly illustrates what these individuals face all day; everyday. While the graphic content is hard to watch, it is important for us to be shown the reality of what is happening.

With Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veteran's Day coming up, let us say a prayer that all personnel serving their respective countries will return safely. And let us give thanks and say a prayer for those who made the ultimate sacrifice doing so.
Posted By Anonymous Heather; Edmonton, AB, Canada : 3:07 PM ET
Thank you for reporting on the medics... May God bless all our heros; soldiers, medics, all that are risking their lives daily to make someone else's a little safer... Thank you from the bottom of my heart...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota Fl : 3:42 PM ET
I was an army medic from 1986 to 1989 (HHC 4/6 INF(Mech) Fort Polk, LA...deployed to Panama in Operation Nimrod Dancer/Just Cause). The training was intense back then...but this stuff is awesome. Even with all that...you don't know how you are going to react and can only hope all that training becomes instinct that allows you to save the lives of wounded soldiers. We did this to serve our country and to save lives. We are the crazy ones that run into the line of fire to save our wounded brothers and sisters *grin*. There was a saying(almost a motto) for the medics back when I was in...Born to Kill...Trained to Save. I can remember the first week of training, we sat down and watched a movie about medics in Vietnam. Most of my class lost thier lunch. It's hard to deal with the casualties while keeping emotions in check...we are human, so I understand the comments in the clip about even after a simulation, floks being in tears. It can be heart wrenching...even more so when you have to starre death in the face and hope to be able to fight it back. We are the difference between life and death on the battlefield. I am proud to have been a medic, knowing that I helped to save the lives of a few soldiers. Blessings to all of those fighting for thier country!
Posted By Anonymous Rev. Eric Roberts, Naperville, IL : 3:44 PM ET
It's great to see positive news. Although the context in which the story was presented is clouded with war, oppression, and controversy, it is comforting to hear that in the midst of such circumstances lives are being saved.
Posted By Anonymous Schuyler Deerman, Berlin, Germany : 3:45 PM ET
My son is going through this course right now at Fort Sam. He had his choice of many different jobs in the Army, but this is all he wanted to do. He follows into his Grand-father, Uncle and Cousins footsteps, as they were or still are Army medics, and my footsteps into the Army. Tough job, hard training and I cringe at what he might have to see, but if he saves one persons life it will be worth it.

I am very proud of him and all of our fighting men and women.

My prayers and thoughts go to you all and your families on this Veterans day.

God Bless and come home safely!
Posted By Anonymous GC Seattle,WA : 4:33 PM ET
AC360 will do everything for us to see whats happening even it is just a glimpse but that glimpse will impress something in our heart and mind.Thank you Mr. Anderson Cooper and to the staff and crew of AC360.
Posted By Anonymous Jemillex Bacerdo Chicago, IL. : 4:43 PM ET
I was a combat medic for 10 years, and had the privilege of serving with II MEF, out of Camp Lejeune during the first Gulf War. Yes, the training was, and still is, very intense. I watched a lot of class members break down under pressure, and often thought that I would succumb on a daily basis. That training back then has enabled me to respond accordingly to situations that have happened in my life with my wife and kids, and on the job now (Director of Campus Public Safety). As other medics and former medics can attest, the coppery smell of blood, the taste of bile in your own mouth while trying to patch up a human being, and the stench of cordite brings a flood of memories that you will never forget. May God continue to gift those with the desire to serve so others may live. Semper Fi and Happy Birthday, USMC!
Posted By Anonymous Dondi "Doc" Byrd, Juno Beach, FL : 4:47 PM ET
I served in Vietnam with the 4/31st/196th Light Infantry Brigade from May of 68 to May of 69. I now teach at SUNY Brockport and direct two programs in Vietnam. Tonight, as we approach another Veterans Day, I sit alone and cry, remembering my buddies who died along side me in the war, those I try to help now who survive with the scars of war, and those around me who will never understand.

Ken
Posted By Anonymous Ken Herrmann, Jr.; East Pembroke, NY : 5:02 PM ET
These medics are amazing. They have to be so quick on their feet and experts at what they do. I'm not so good at the sight of blood! Can you imagine having to work on the enemy if he comes in wounded? They are trained to help everyone. They, like our soldiers are American heros to be honored on Vetran's Day. Thanks for the story and have a great week-end!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 10:36 PM ET
Ken,
An Operation Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran (1st wave -- March 2003), knows exactly how you feel.
I am Army National Guard and an Information Technology Manager in the midwest. I understand your scars of war, for I have them to. I understand.
Posted By Anonymous Stephanie Leonard, St. Louis, MO : 11:03 PM ET
Thank you, Jim. Thank you, Frank.
Posted By Anonymous Fran, ABQ, NM : 8:13 PM ET
Ken - I hear the stories about the training these medics receive at least weekly. The instructors, some of whom have been there, are trying to prepare these "kids" for the real world. If we stop and think about it most of these students are right out of high school. They are facing changes they can't even imagine. This type of training will help but can only touch the surface. Both the staff and the students are to be commended for choosing this line of work.
If you want to read a good book get "Not on my watch". It was written by two new medics.
Excellent report by CNN.


Mike Black - Richmond, VA
(Proud father of SFC Shay Black)
Posted By Anonymous Michael Black, Richmond, VA : 9:19 AM ET
I am one of the soldiers who just completed this training. It's tough and I never thought I could actually make it, but when you get through you have a lot of knowledge and when you get through the final week out at Camp Bullis it's an awesome feeling when you can walk across and shake your company commander's hand and they tell you "Congratulations, Combat Medic" I've never done anything that meant more to me than this. Thank you to everyone who supports us.
Posted By Anonymous PFC Pyeatt, Huntsville, TX : 3:34 PM ET
Great Report Anderson & Team,
I am the Proud Parent of 3 military children, One which is featured in your story about Combat Medics. My Daughter is National Guard Reservist they go through the same training as regular Army trainees. I am very proud that my children have decided to serve our country at this time of war. My oldest Son USMC will be going to Iraq in Feb. of next year I will be Nervous about it Buts Thats The Job. God Bless all Our Service Men & Women Be Safe.
Posted By Anonymous Thalia Cairo : 9:54 PM ET
Thank You Mr. Cooper for this Great Story. Our Daughter is currently in the Unit that is training in Fort Sam Houston. Of all of the MOS choices that she had, she wanted to give back to her fellow soldiers and chose to become a Combat Medic.. We have two other sons who are Veterans and I myself served in the Vietnam War. We are Proud of our Sons and Daughter.
Something to always remember:
It is the Soldier who salutes the Flag, Who serves beneath the Flag, And whose coffin is draped by the Flag.
Thanks.
Posted By Anonymous Steve Dudley, Atlanta, GA. : 11:30 PM ET
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