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By Senior Airman Curt Beach
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is leading the way in training service members to save the lives of wounded comrades in combat.
The 673d Medical Group at JBER is the first site in Pacific Air Forces to be implementing Tactical Combat Casualty Care, a life-saving course scheduled to replace Self-Aid and Buddy Care.
“A couple years ago, we were looking at the program for Self-Aid and Buddy Care and realized it wasn’t necessarily covering what was needed in the battlefield, and there were recommendations put forward consistently to move to Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Heather Lewis, 673d MDG Pediatrics flight chief and PACAF SABC advisor.
TCCC was created by the U.S. Department of Defense Committee on TCCC to teach evidence-based life-saving techniques and strategies for providing the best trauma care on the battlefield.
There are two types of TCCC courses; one for medical personnel which is currently taking place at JBER and one for all combatants. Both courses teach lifesaving techniques and how to provide the most effective trauma care during combat.
The committee meets two to four times a year and interviews medics fresh out of theater, who have experienced incidents, to see what is and isn’t working.
“It’s really the transition from the faux pas of ‘no tourniquets, no tourniquets,’ to now if
you’re in care under fire and we need to stop your bleeding, the first thing we are going to do is apply a tourniquet,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Barbara Jean, Air Force SABC advisor. “Applying tourniquets is one of the contributing factors of a significant increase in lives saved on the battlefield in recent years.”
The Medical Provider course is 16-hour course dedicated to learning and applying skills within labs. Once all personnel demonstrate proficiency at each station, they are introduced to a new dynamic.
Various simulated scenarios encompass the three phases of TCCC, which are care under fire, tactical field care and tactical evacuation.
During the field training portion of the course, personnel are armed with paintball guns and endure a simulated combat scenario testing their ability to rescue casualties. During the scenario, they must provide medical care while also returning fire. Personnel administer moulaged care to volunteers and mannequins while instructors provide feedback and guidance.
Supporting units provide smoke and ground burst simulators, along with personnel armed with paintball guns to act as enemy combatants. Once participants have ceased fire, they must complete an evacuation simulation which may require them to load casualties onto rescue helicopters.
The ultimate mission of TCCC is to ensure military personnel entering the combat environment possess the confidence, skillset, and knowledge to save lives.
“We’ve learned over the course of time that TCCC works,” Lewis said. “I’ve deployed with TCCC training, and I know it was extremely effective. In the past, we didn’t have training that was so combat-oriented; it was basically trial by fire. Now, our medics will be better prepared for what they may encounter in a hostile environment and be armed with the skills to effectively save more lives and get their wingmen home safe.”