The Special Purpose Course: Preparing Military Medics
Modern warfare demands special training for both soldiers and medics. Earlier, medics were solely perceived as physicians but these days, they must be versatile and have adequate training to prepare them for combat.
Recent military conflicts have shown that improved tactical combat care at the forefront is necessary for successful mission execution. Alex Bongartz, a British militant and paramedic with over 20 years experience recalls the development of tactical medicine in Great Britain: "In the 1990s I went to Bosnia on my first combat mission. I was given two bandages and a rubber tourniquet, which is similar to what Ukrainian soldiers received a year ago. Later, they stopped giving us tourniquets because civilian doctors labeled them unsafe. We went on our next mission with only two bandages." However, local communities spoke out against this: "Young, nineteen-year-old boys were coming home in body bags, and this could have been avoided. Society demanded change and it happened." By 2010, taking into account death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan, it became clear that tourniquets, hemostatic agents and first aid training for every soldier changed the daunting statistics.
Currently Alex and the “Patriot Defence” team are teaching the Long Range Patrol Medic Course to Ukrainian servicemen. He and his colleagues, ex British Commandos, have developed a medical course adapted for special purpose troops operating in the Ukrainian Army and Security Services. The course material is refined by international standards and recommendations, and is based on relevant experiences from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukrainian wars. "Before every departure to the conflict zone, the British Military undergoes training to reinforce their knowledge. Every time you return from war, there is a lesson to be learned. These experiences are taken into account and influence future trainings, " adds Alex.
These types of trainings were first conducted for the most capable and motivated of British tactical medics, who would go on to join the Special Forces or become military attachés, working in extreme conditions. Training was strict and focused on the mental and physical capacity.
The Ukrainian Long Range Patrol Medic (ULRPM) course aims to prepare one combat medic from each Special Forces Unit to provide quality and timely care when necessary. “This course is designed for soldiers who might be injured in remote areas, isolated from receiving any type of qualified medical care. We highlight the high death toll of the war. We emphasize the need for more help on the battlefield since there are problems with evacuation" says Alex. "A year ago, tactical medicine did not exist in Ukraine. Now this is changing; tactics are evolving and there is an understanding that people are dying for no reason. Most casualties don’t make it to the hospital alive."
The participants of the ULRPM course have previously undergone the Combat Lifesaver (CLS) course, and have a good understanding of modern-day care under fire. A medical background is recommended but not compulsory. Some of the training takes place in a classroom-- the rest in the field. The trainees get to practice on each other. There is an emphasis on practical training, small group work (no more than six students per instructor) and there is a thorough evaluation at the end of the course.
The combat care paradigm CABC (Critical bleeding, Airways, Breathing, Circulation), taught in the CLS course, continues to be the standard across the spectrum. The ULRPM course, however, goes into more detail; it includes learning about and delivering care to various wounds (the respiratory tract, brain and chest injuries, fractures and dislocations, burns), stabilizing casualties, conducting primary and secondary inspections.
At the end of the five-day intensive course, participants undergo a “test” in a combat situation environment. The course is based on world-class tactical medicine standards that participants must grasp in order to be prepared for the realities of the modern warfare. This exam format helps assess the medic’s level of training and prepares him for real circumstances.
After the final test, students receive a tactical backpack. It is essentially a mini-hospital made up over 100 necessary components that can help save a life in extreme conditions. The items were carefully selected by British Military Commandos, and can keep a casualty alive until proper medical attention is obtained.