Whether it is an improvised explosive device attack in a combat zone or a car accident on I-95, Fort Bragg’s Dragon First Responder course ensures Soldiers are trained and ready.

Seventeen Soldiers from units across the region, including the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, fought through wind, rain,  simulated enemy fire, exhaustion and high stress during the final testing phase and became certified Dragon First Responders Jan. 10, at the Medical Simulation Training Center on MacRidge Road.

Master Sergeant Litt Moore, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Fort Bragg MSTC and an Army combat medic/healthcare specialist with more than 23 years of service said the monthly course lasts five days and is based on the Ranger First Responder course created by the U.S. Special Operations Command’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

According to the 75th Ranger Regt. website, “course emphasis is on the treatment of three preventable combat deaths — massive extremity hemorrhage, tension pneumothorax, and airway obstruction.

The idea is that a Ranger doesn’t need to be able to perform surgery, but rather he should be a master of the basic treatments for these three, medically preventable causes of death within the guidelines of TCCC.”

During the DFR course, Soldiers are taught combat lifesaver and tactical combat casualty care. The goal is to prepare non-medic Soldiers to provide self-aid or buddy-aid in the absence of a medical provider, both on and off the battlefield.

Although the skills are based on combat scenarios, Moore said he often hears stories where Soldiers in garrison are credited with saving lives as first responders. He recalled one instance where a MSTC-trained Soldier responded to a car accident on Fort Bragg’s Longstreet Road and saved a person’s life using his training and a tourniquet.

Critical, hands-on, lifesaving skills taught during the DFR course include controlling bleeding, managing an airway, conducting a patient assessment, treating for shock, moving a patient when necessary, establishing a casualty collection point and requesting medical evacuation.

“The one thing they constantly plug in your brain is (the importance of) tourniquets.  As soon as you reach your patient, you are immediately looking to stop the bleeding, if you need to,” said Dustin L. Smith, 24, a cable systems installer who is assigned to the 1st TSC G-6 office.

After four days of classroom instruction on everything from applying tourniquets to moving the casualty to safety, the final day of training took the Soldiers outside and into the woods of Fort Bragg’s MSTC located within Training Area “H”, where their skills were put to the test. Here they encountered three, mass casualty producing combat scenarios – a vehicle improvised explosive device, a military operations on urban terrain site and a downed helicopter crew.

For this group of Soldiers, the testing started with climbing over a wall, crawling under razor wire and maneuvering through a trench. As they pressed on, they encountered “opposing forces” that ambushed them using M-4 paintball weapons and detonated IED simulators in the area.

Tired and ready to slow down, they arrived at the site and found a room full of Soldiers from their “sister unit” wounded with injuries such as amputated limbs, chest wounds and in shock. For most, adrenaline and “muscle memory” kicked in and they performed as they were trained.

“By putting you in a real life situation with the instructors yelling and having explosive simulators, oh and the weather, the training was more realistic. I definitely feel more confident to respond to an accident since having the training,” said Pfc. Patrick K. Hildreth, 19, who is a cable systems installer in the 1st TSC G-6 office.

Following each scenario, the instructors gathered the group for a review and provided feedback on how to improve efforts in a real situation.

“When the helicopter is there and ready, you must be too. This is not the time to be fumbling around,” said Sgt. Karlos Contreras, an MSTC instructor with nine years of service in the Army.

Smith, who had attended combat lifesaver training in the past, recommends the course to his fellow Soldiers, even as a refresher.

At the end of the day, the instructors and Soldiers agreed that even though the training was tough and Mother Nature was not always on their side, the importance of being ready to respond to an emergency is what it is all about.

“I hope these Soldiers leave here and never have to use this training. But if they do, I hope they execute those skills with confidence and bring our fellow servicemembers home ...,” said Moore.