By Senior Airman Ruben Rios, 514th Air Mobility Wing
/ Published November 03, 2021
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. -- We’re not talking about a treasure map here. In a combat environment, the X is a place you do not want to be. It’s not easy to talk about but, caught between live fire while your brother or sister-in-arms is bleeding out, what do you do? When faced with overwhelming odds, many experts will say, “refer back to your training,” and that is exactly what the Combat Lifesaver Tactical Combat Casualty Care course tries to ingrain in its students: the skills to save lives.
U.S. Airmen from the 514th Air Mobility Wing and the 421st Combat Training Squadron, both at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania, and Office of the Surgeon General, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Virginia, participated in a test of concept TCCC course at JB MDL, N.J., October 30-31, 2021.
At the helm of this pilot program was the 514th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, 514th AMW, who designed the TCCC course to provide members who are not normally involved in combat environments the skills to survive and care for casualties in the event they are under attack. Course students included Airmen from both medical and non-medical career fields, and ranged from airman first class to brigadier general.
“The individuals who participated in this class came from many different backgrounds and career fields,” said Brig. Gen. Bonnie J. Bosler, mobilization assistant to the director of medical operations, Office of the Surgeon General. “We have representation from both the guard and reserve, as well as active duty, with exceptional instructors from all three components.”
True to the concept of Air Force Total Force Integration, the 421st CTS, an active duty squadron, the 514th ASTS and 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, both reserve squadrons, and the 171st ARW, a guard wing came together to develop this potentially life-saving course.
“This course was a unique collaboration between the teams at JB MDL and the 171st ARW,” said 1st Lt. Heather Edsall, 171st ARW emergency trauma nurse and TCCC cadre. “We utilized non-traditional means of communication to take a foundational idea and fully developed it into a training opportunity that could pave the way for additional Joint Force Integration offerings.”
Participants began by reading course materials online with check points to track their understanding. From there, students came to the course in-person with a base knowledge, so that they could more efficiently get to the hands-on portion of the class.
“We were able to take the information from the course material and then apply those foundational skills to hands-on practice to give us the confidence to be able to perform our job in any situation,” said Bosler.
Skills that were practiced included tourniquet application, splinting, trauma patient care and transport, providing care under fire, tactical maneuvers, and calling in a nine-line.
“The goal is to integrate combat ready, medical skills across all career fields to provide a uniform standard of care and survival regardless of what Air Force Specialty Code a service member has,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Sicola, 514th ASTS flight medical technician and TCCC cadre. "Ultimately, we want to give them the tools they need to make it back home.”
Though only a pilot program, the potential for the TCCC sees no end.
“I hope to continue the growth of the program and maybe even become a training site for instructors so they can bring back the training to their home units,” said Major Jonathan Trager, 514th ASTS critical care air transport team physician and TCCC program medical director. “The ultimate goal is to create a joint service training center for medical care, evacuation, and en route care.”
Until then, the TCCC course will continue to teach those who are lucky enough to participate the skills to save the lives of not only our military service members, but anyone who needs it!
“Seeing six other Guardsmen from the 171st fully immersed in this multi-component environment alongside active duty and reserve was an invaluable experience for all, and one of the most fulfilling experiences of my 20 plus year military career,” said Edsall. “This program equips our members with one of the single most important things we can arm our Airmen with, both stateside and down range, and that is the knowledge on how to save a life.”