U.S. Medics Teach Life-Saving Skills to Iraqi First Responders

Iraqi police, civil defense officers and ambulance personnel graduated from the first 135-hour EMT course taught by U.S. medics in Salah ad-Din province on August 9, 2010.


Iraqi police, civil defense officers and ambulance personnel graduated from the first 135-hour EMT course in Salah ad-Din province on August 9, 2010.

This EMT course is one example of how 3rd Infantry Division, Task Force Marne Soldiers are advising, training and assisting their Iraqi counterparts in Northern Iraq as part of stability operations missions. The overall desired effect is to have some of the Iraqi medics from the graduating EMT course come back and help teach the next one. Hopefully, by the third and fourth class the Iraqis will do all of the instructing while U.S. medics only provide the resources.

"EMTs are the first responders to medical events," said Sgt. Brian Evans, the battalion medical training noncommissioned officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ID out of Fort Stewart, GA. "With the drawdown, we're going to be leaving. They're going to be the ones left to maintain the jobs we were doing. They will have to perform life-saving measures to keep their fellow Iraqis alive."

This EMT course has spread throughout northern Iraq, initially starting in Kirkuk. A few soldiers from 3rd ID went to Kirkuk to gain knowledge about the program. In the process, they received valuable tips, feedback, and improvements that created their successful course in Tikrit.

Sgt. Brady Neighbors, a 3rd ID combat medic and course instructor, said about prehospital care in Iraq: "It's almost like the U.S. 30 years ago--load and go…get them to the hospital," he said.

The focus of the training was toward transferring the casualties to the hospital without any on-site care. Much of the effectiveness of this course was predominantly due to the amount of hands-on training the student medics received. By the second week of training, the students were out of the classroom and on their way to the trauma lanes. These exercises included scenarios that included casualties with lots of moulage, evacuation procedures and other challenges that were discussed in the classroom. This allowed them to work as a team and better understand the classroom instruction through hands-on experience. Each week the instructors increased the number of casualties at each lane, to better develop the students' competency levels and skill as individuals and as a team.

When Sgt. Neighbors was asked what made this course so special to him, he replied, "When we had the trama lanes…they actually got up there and worked as a team, they triaged well and treated the injuries the way they are suppose to. It was very rewarding."

If someone were to simply stumble upon one of these lanes and didn't know it was a training exercise, he would think it was a real-life crisis. The casualties were screaming as fake blood, homemade open-flesh wounds and burnt skin, created by colored paint, covered each patient. The casualties didn't hold anything back. It was unbelievable how real they made it all look. The Iraqi students moved with a purpose; all were involved and fully engaged as they assessed the casualties and treated the wounded.

The students expressed a great deal of confidence in their abilities and spoke very highly of the instructors.

"The instructors and hands-on training is outstanding. It gives us more knowledge and understanding. We feel comfortable and confident with the course. I'm sure we will be the instructors one day and help others serve the people," said Cpl. Majid al-Ajili, who was a student of the course.

Since U.S. Forces have transitioned to Operation New Dawn, soldiers continue to make a difference in Iraq as our Iraqi counterparts take the lead. The 3rd ID and Task Force Marne continue to do their part to help create a stable and secure Iraq.

Capt. Heather L. Guck is a public affairs officer for the 135th MPAD, Task Force Marne. Spc. Jessica Zullig also contributed to this article.