As one soldier kept watch, two others frantically applied tourniquets to the legs of a training mannequin.
Far from dead weight, the mannequin moaned, and its legs — including one bloody stump — moved at random as red liquid spurted onto the ground next to the soldiers.
This is as realistic as medical training gets for most paratroopers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
But if they have their way, that will change in the coming months.
Last month, 19 paratroopers from the brigade took part in a Combat Lifesaver Course — designed to teach non-medical soldiers how to provide trauma care in a battlefield situation.
At the same time, a team from the Army’s Training Support Analysis and Integration Directorate at Fort Eustis, Virginia, observed the training and took notes.
The Fort Bragg soldiers are helping the Army evaluate its training tools, officials from the directorate said. And their efforts could lead to changes in how the Army is distributing realistic training aids known as the Tactical Combat Casualty Care Exportable kit, which includes several realistic simulators.
“It’s not to evaluate instructors. It’s not to evaluate soldiers,” said Michael Jaje, an operations research analyst. “It’s to get instructor feedback. It’s to get soldier feedback. It’s to help us inform and get the best training aid out in the field.”
The training systems were first fielded to Army garrisons in 2016.
Jaje said the first systems were provided to Fort Bragg, Fort Drum in New York, Fort Stewart in Georgia and Army installations in Europe, Korea and the Middle East.
Now, the Army is looking at how the systems are being used before fielding them to the rest of the Army starting later this year.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Rushford, a medic with the 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, who was leading the training last month, said the realistic mannequins are preferred by his medics and non-medical soldiers alike.
Rushford said hundreds of soldiers in the brigade have used the system in the past. And those soldiers are better prepared to face the types of wounds they may see in combat.
“They actually get the blood,” he said. “They can see the kind of blood they are going to encounter.”
And more importantly, the advanced mannequins can provide the instructor with real-time feedback through a handheld monitor that provides vital signs.
With the monitor, Rushford said instructors can see if soldiers are applying enough pressure with tourniquets and if they have successfully opened airways. They also could tweak the scenario mid-training, simulating a broken tourniquet or other unexpected developments.
That’s especially important when soldiers training don’t have medical backgrounds, he said.
The soldiers training at Fort Bragg last month included infantrymen and logisticians from across the 1st Brigade, officials said. The training is meant to teach soldiers how to identify and stabilize combat injuries quickly, potentially saving lives before a medical evacuation can take place.
“Most infantry platoons are only outfitted with one medic,” Rushford said. “When they are in a combat environment, there’s the possibility the medic won’t be the first or the closest there.”
Spc. Danny Brambila, an infantryman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said soldiers understand the importance of the training.
But he said the realistic simulation adds another level to the course.
“It makes it so very real,” Brambila said.
And that, he said, leads to more confidence that he’ll be able to help if someone from his platoon is injured in a real-life combat situation.
“This is very important to learn,” Brambila said. “Having this under your belt, knowing the basics … just being able to know what to do in these situations … it’s a good tool to have.”
In teams of three, soldiers were tasked with moving to the mannequin while simulating being under attack.
They then had to assess the injuries and prepare the patient to be moved to safety behind a nearby Humvee.
Once out of harm’s way, two soldiers continued to treat the patient, stemming bleeding, opening airways and treating shock, while the third called for a medical evacuation.
The scenario was the culminating event of the 40-hour Combat Lifesaver Course, officials said.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cadnum, the 1st Brigade’s senior medic, said paratroopers began using the realistic mannequins in preparation for their deployment last year.
The brigade spent nine months in Afghanistan and Kosovo and continued to use the system while deployed and training alongside coalition forces.
Cadnum said the soldiers are now looking at ways to improve the system.
That could include making it easier to take out into austere training locations, he said, or by adding more blood, a smoke machine and noise makers to simulate heavy combat.
“These guys have a lot of input,” he said.
The Tactical Combat Casualty Care Exportable kit is a vast improvement from the Army’s old system, Cadnum said. That old system included a 150-pound training mannequin named “Rescue Randy” that was a poor stand-in for a real person.
“It didn’t talk or walk or spit blood,” Cadnum said.
The new system “makes it that more realistic,” he added. “The more realistic and the more lifelike we can make it, the more these paratroopers will be ready for combat.”
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3567.
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