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Air Force combat medics serve critical role on PRT

 

Written by U.S. Air Force Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public

Regional Command East - Combined Joint Task Force - 101Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Simon Deyell stands in front of about 15 Soldiers and Airmen explaining how, while on a dismounted patrol, some Afghans brought him a young boy whose head and shoulders were covered in blood.

When Deyell cleaned the blood off, he discovered the cause of the bleeding was just a small cut on the back of the boy’s head – the incident showed how even minor head wounds can bleed profusely, he said.

Deyell, deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, CO, is the noncommissioned officer in charge of medical operations and the senior combat medic with the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team here. Deyell and fellow medics U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nikolia Saunders from Langley Air Force Base, VA, recently provided combat lifesaver refresher training to about 50 of their teammates on the PRT.

Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team members meet in their barracks to participate in a combat lifesaver refresher course taught by medics U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Simon Deyell from Peterson Air Force Base, CO, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 12th. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ave I. Pele, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team members meet in their barracks to participate in a combat lifesaver refresher course taught by medics U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Simon Deyell from Peterson Air Force Base, CO, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 12th. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ave I. Pele, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

“Combat lifesaver” training is provided to most non-medical Soldiers and Airmen before they deploy to Afghanistan. The course teaches advanced first aid and lifesaving procedures beyond the scope of the “self-aid and buddy care” skills taught to all servicemembers. The PRT rotation currently at Mehtar Lam has been in place since February, so this was a good time for refresher training, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Philip Hotchkiss, a physician assistant deployed from Tyndall AFB, FL, and the PRT’s senior medical officer.

“Unfortunately, these are perishable skills,” said Hotchkiss. “If you don’t use them occasionally, you will either lose the skill completely or freeze when attempting to recall them during stressful situations. Therefore, during the summer months when kinetics in Afghanistan have traditionally heated up, we thought that a review would sharpen the skills of our warriors, improve reaction times and save lives.”

The medics serve in various capacities at their home stations – Deyell is the NCOIC of family practice, while Marr specializes in pediatrics – but while they are here, they are all considered “combat medics.”

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team medic, rolls up an abdominal dressing after conducting a combat lifesaver refresher course here Aug. 12th. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ave I. Pele, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team medic, rolls up an abdominal dressing after conducting a combat lifesaver refresher course here Aug. 12th. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ave I. Pele, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

As part of the training for this deployment, they attended a two-week course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on what the Army calls “Tactical Combat Casualty Care.” The training focused on immediate actions to take if someone is injured on the battlefield – such as how to stop bleeding, treat a sucking chest wound, open someone’s airway or splint a fractured bone.

“It was basically a two-week trauma course on how to be self-sufficient without a provider around,” said Marr, who is deployed here from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“In addition to the trauma training, the instructors also taught clinical aspects of care, such as various medications and what they’re used for,” said Deyell. “They try to refine your skills and get you ready for what potentially could happen in theater.”

The four-person medical section cares for more than 100 individuals on the PRT, and they provide support to other units on FOB Mehtar Lam, including Task Force Iron Gray and the Agribusiness Development Team. The medics spend much of their time treating people for ailments such as dehydration, skin problems, gastro-intestinal distress, communicable diseases, or orthopedic issues such as muscle, joint or back pain, they said.

Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team medics U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Simon Deyell from Peterson Air Force Base, CO, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, demonstrate how to use a cravat as a sling during a combat lifesaver refresher course at the PRT barracks Aug. 12th. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ave I. Pele, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team medics U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Simon Deyell from Peterson Air Force Base, CO, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeffrey Marr from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, demonstrate how to use a cravat as a sling during a combat lifesaver refresher course at the PRT barracks Aug. 12th. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ave I. Pele, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

At least one medic also goes on every PRT mission outside the wire – for Marr and Saunders that averages two or three trips a week. As the NCO in charge, Deyell manages the schedule and covers missions for the other medics when they have tower guard duty, go on their mid-tour leave, or when he gets “FOB fever,” he said.

Marr, who worked as a welder for three years before joining the Air Force, said he enjoys the camaraderie of going out on patrol and helping provide security alongside the Army security forces Soldiers who accompany every mission.

“In the field, the medics give the warriors they protect an additional dose of confidence,” said Hotchkiss. “Having their ‘doc’ – the colloquial term the Army uses for combat medics – along on the mission gives the troops the reassurance that if something goes wrong and someone gets hurt, they will receive prompt and proper care.”

In addition to treating U.S. and other International Security Assistance Force troops, the medics also sometimes have the opportunity to treat local nationals, as Deyell did with the Afghan boy’s head injury. “Our Air Force medics have been in high demand during this deployment not only by our own Soldiers and Airmen, but also by the local national population,” said Hotchkiss.

“They have been very compassionate in treating the Afghans,” he said. “I’m really proud of the work our medics are doing here – they freely give of themselves day and night, seven days a week, without hesitation.”


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