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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

AFP and JSOTF-P Teach Combat Medic Lifesaving Course

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

CAVITE, Philippines- Twenty Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Navy SEALs participated in a month-long lifesaving course taught by three U.S. Navy SEAL Medics assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) at Naval Station Cavite from Jan. 11-Feb. 5.

The purpose of the course was to train one to two AFP Navy SEALs from each Naval Special Operations Unit (NAVSOU) as combat medics. The hope is that through this training, they will know what immediate steps to take to save victim’s lives if they experience casualties during combat operations.

“In the past, we have had to treat many casualties so this training is so important to us. We can save our comrades with what we have learned here. This will really help us on the battlefield,” said a NAVSOU team leader.

During the course, students learned basic and advanced first aid and life support, as well as treatments such as applying a tourniquet to stop bleeding, ways to open a patient’s airway, treatment for a collapsed lung and how to treat patients for shock.

“Our intent for the course is to give these few SOF [Special Operations Force] operators advanced medical training and a more in- depth understanding; this will lead to these students passing along these skills to others,” said a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator 3rd Class (SEAL) Medic teaching the course.

The course was divided into four sections. During the first week, teams learned about basic body anatomy, and then learned how to administer first-responder care to wounded patients.

The conclusion of the class ended with a final field exercise where teams were divided into two to put their newly-acquired skills to the test. The exercise consisted of a simulated operation where troops were injured and the students had to provide traumatic causality care

“The students performed really well during the course. I think they can handle a multiple-systems traumatic patient. They are well capable and well prepared to go to their respective units and handle causalities,” said a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Medic teaching the course.

Additionally, teams learned how to perform minor, immediate surgeries and how to properly diagnosis combat injuries. They also learned how to apply an IV to a patient, in order to quickly restore fluid to an injured team member.

Students in the course were also given the opportunity to receive training from the AFP Medical Center in Quezon City by shadowing doctors and nurses in several of the hospital’s departments.

For two days, students learned many aspects of hospital care, including additional IV training and how to check for vital signs. At the end of the visit, they were given an open invitation to return to do more hands-on training

JSOTF-P teams here strive to take their knowledge gained from training and experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions to train others. Often, during these subject matter expert exchanges, the AFP and JSOTF-P learn new skills by working closely with one another. The AFP Navy SEALs are experts on the jungle environment and often instruct portions of the course, enhancing the class by students learning from each other and not just from the JSOTF-P teams.

The course was the most comprehensive medical training given to NAVSOU from JSOTF-P to date. JSOTF-P medics also plan to teach additional classes at the NAVSOU unit headquarters in Zamboanga to others who were unable to attend the course.

The course was also greatly enhanced by the AFP’s Naval Special Operations Group, which outfitted each student with a “Medpack,” a large backpack filled with lifesaving medical supplies.

Items such as tourniquet bandages, gauze, and I.V. kits were among many items in each backpack. At the graduation ceremony, each student was given the supplies along with a certificate recognizing them as official combat medics.

Through the cooperation and coordination of the AFP and JSOTF-P, enlisted Sailors assigned to NAVSOU will return to their units with an increased understanding of tactical combat causality care and an increased confidence that when called upon, they can save the lives of their comrades.

“This training is very important to me because if my teammate gets hurt, I can save his life. I want this special skill to save my brothers," said a 3rd Class Petty Officer with NAVSOU 6.

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