Train Like NATO: Representing Ukraine at an International Tactical Medicine Course
The International Combat Lifesaver course is held at the US Army Europe base in Wiesbaden, Germany every six months. Its purpose is to provide a forum to trade experience between different armies and generally add to the development of tactical medicine. For the past two years, instructors from Patriot Defence were invited to share their experience.
This is an opportunity for Ukrainians to first evaluate the tactical medical techniques of other armies but more importantly to share with allies the experience they have gained over the past two years.
Patriot Defence instructors during the International Combat Lifesaver Course in Germany
Over the course of three days instructors from the US, the UK, Germany, Austria, Sweden and Ukraine taught reserve units from the Bundeswehr, the United States, Switzerland, Finland the Czech Republic as well as Austrian and German police units.
Course instructors were currently serving military or policy units who also provide training in tactical medicine.
Ukrainian instructors Volodymyr Falchuk, Maskym Hnatkov and Leonid Fedorovsky for the past two years have been teaching tactical medicine to Ukrainian units and have completed courses to upgrade their instructor credentials and qualifications.
The interview with Maksym and Volodymyr was conducted during training mission to Kramatorsk where they taught Combat Lifesaver to a Ukrainian Airborne unit three days after their return from Germany. The interview with Leonid was conducted prior to his departure to Lviv to provide training for military chaplains.
According to Volodymyr, “few of the instructors there had kind of instructor experience that we have built up over the past few years, but the evidentiary knowledge they have is something we need to develop. The instructors might have less localized experience teaching the course, but then again they have systemic experience going back 10-15 years.”
The International Combat Lifesaver course in Wiesbaden was done along the American format that differs in small ways from the adapted course provided by Patriot Defence in Ukraine.
Care under fire
“We realized there is not a single axiom that always works, but there is the system CABC or the similar MARCHE that works, with small technical nuances work differently in different countries,” said Maksym Hnatkov reflecting on the Combat Lifesaver course in NATO member-states.
And although there are small differences in instructor methodology and some of the course details, all the countries adhere to the TCCC protocols. Simply put, a soldier from any of the NATO member-sates who might be injured or encounters a wounded, will work according to the same algorithm.
“The American CLS course has more breadth to it and includes other kinds of combat related issues. Some are quite specific like protection against chemical or biological agents, which we have not covered. Their students also go through all of the practical stations, they all run IVs and they all insert the nasopharyngeal tube on one another. That’s really cool and it works,” explains Leonid Fedorovsky.
“Of course they have a huge materiel base that supplies them with what they need,” Leonid adds. “Making use of that wisely provides for incredible learning opportunities.”
That kind of materiel base is absent in Ukraine. Ukrainian instructors are often forced to come up with creative alternatives to expensive mannequins and equipment for simulations to approximate training at the level that seen in the US army or Europe.
Instead of reinventing the bicycle heads of medical departments in Ukraine can learn from the experience of their foreign counterparts. The system of education and training that works for American or Germans soldiers can also be implemented successfully for Ukrainian soldiers.
Against the background of failed reforms in Ukraine, half-myths are spread around about how great the American, British or French armies have it, how awesomely things work out for them and everything in Ukraine is substandard or doesn’t work.
In reality, everyone has problems and it’s important to see them, address them and find a solution. This needs to happen to keep focused on the future and not return to business as usual.
“Some of the foreign units train the same way Ukrainian units have been, only visually and without equipment,” adds Maksym. “This cause of this is most likely the motivation of the instructor. We spoke with the students there that completed the Combat Lifesaver course in their own units and they told us what they’re really missing is the practice.”
Volodymyr Falchuk also highlights one important shortcoming shared by all students of the Combat Lifesaver course, “The problem is an international absolute: ‘I want to go help someone, even when circumstances say I should stay put.”
Another important point, that because there will always be different units chaos will ensue and persistent training is the only way to avoid it. Moreover, in every unit there is always someone that tries to be more than a medic and someone that tries to be a super solider. These issues can be solved with proper training.
Patriot Defence instructors also saw first hand some of the differences between Ukraine and NATO member-states and also saw what areas need development in Ukraine, what changes need to be implemented to bring the training on par with international standards.
“The most valuable part of the experience was that we got to work with different instructors from different countries all with their own vision. And in so far as the instructor profession in Ukraine is concerned, not everything is as bad as it seems. We’re on the same level as some of their best instructors,” adds Volodymyr recalling his experience.
Following the end of the International Combat Lifesaver course, course director Tim Cranton sent a letter to thank Patriot Defence instructors. “The three Instructors set a standard for all the other new Instructors to follow. They all worked hard to earn their United States Army Europe, Office of the Command Surgeon, Tactical Combat Casualty Care Instructor Certificates and definitely helped to make the course a success.”
A screenshot of the letter we received from Tim Cranton, International Lifesaver Course director
Ukraine’s participation in the International Combat Lifesaver course as instructors along side NATO member-states is a kind of recognition that Ukraine is not just the victim that was attacked by a “neighbor.” It recognizes Ukraine as a strong state that has held an enemy at bay and two years of war has brought about instructors that are on par with the best international experts. Our western allies are keen to listen to our experience and consider us as partners. Plans are in the works to host the next International Combat Lifesaver course in six months in Ukraine.