Camp Pendleton, Calif. --
With a labored shout, a Jordanian soldier calls for aid. He has sustained a blast injury with an amputation to both legs. A Marine dives into the trench where the injured soldier is lying and assesses the damage. A firefight rages just beyond the trench, and with no corpsman able to reach him, the Marine knows that if he doesn’t stop the bleeding, the soldier will die in about two minutes. The Marine applies two tourniquets from his kit, and monitors the soldier until the corpsman arrives on the scene. After escorting the soldier to safety, the Marine rejoins his squad and continues to push back the insurgent ambush.
This scenario was a real-world experience for Staff Sgt. Michael A. Quintero in 2010 when he was able to render aid to a soldier injured in combat through life-saving skills and techniques he learned prior to his deployment. Now, Master Sgt. Quintero, intelligence chief with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), observes as his junior Marines learn similar skills during a Combat Lifesaver Course (CLS) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 28-30, 2022.
“CLS is a history thing … everything we’ve done is based on what we’ve seen,” said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class David Laneygarcia with the 15th MEU. “In the past there have been [battlefield] deaths just from bleeding out or pneumothorax. We could have potentially saved lives if we applied interventions like a tourniquet.”
On the battlefield, CLS trained Marines are an essential asset in stopping preventable deaths when a corpsman is unavailable or overwhelmed. However, the skills learned in CLS aren’t only relevant to the battlefield. The principles of CLS can be applied across a range of medical emergencies. Clearing an airway, mitigating blood loss, and splinting a potentially fatal bone fracture are just some of the lifesaving skills taught during CLS.
“It gives Marines the ability to react in case there is not a corpsman available or during a mass casualty situation,” said Laneygarcia. “It allows us, even when we are spread thin, to react to any situation.”
The course was broken down into three phases: care under fire, tactical field care and tactical evacuation (TACEVAC).
In the care under fire phase, 15th MEU Marines learned a variety of buddy drags. While maintaining fire superiority against the enemy, Marines dragged the casualty out of the line of fire and applied a tourniquet on the casualty within 90 seconds of injury.
During the tactical field care phase, Marines were taught to go through a series of casualty procedures such as checking for massive arterial bleeding, head trauma and fractured bones. During practical application, Marines mitigated a simulated casualty’s injuries until the casualty could receive a higher echelon of care.
In the TACEVAC phase, Marines learned to record their casualty’s injuries and call in a nine-Line medical evacuation request for the casualty to receive a higher echelon of care.
Though a CLS qualified Marine is no replacement for a trained corpsman, CLS Marines possess the abilities and equipment to prolong a casualty’s life until they can be escorted to a medical facility.
“No matter what situation, you don't know what's going to happen, you don’t know if your body is going to freeze, but you are going to have the knowledge, and you will know what you should do,” said Laneygarcia.