ZAMBALES, Philippines — Philippine army soldiers from the 24th Infantry Battalion teamed up with the Joint Civil Operations Task Force U.S. Army medical team to conduct a four-day, lifesaver refresher course for Philippine first responders at the President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital in the Iba Municipality, April 6.
The four-day class covered CPR, basic lifesaving skills, soft tissue injuries, medical emergency priorities, sanitation and pest management, and hazardous waste management.
As a final test, the medical team set up a mock, three-vehicle motor accident, (a realistic occurrence in the Philippines) in which nine Philippine army soldiers played critically wounded victims. The students had to react to simultaneous, life-threatening injuries, using the skills they learned during the class.
“They did an amazing job,” said Dr. (Maj.) Kate Flocke from the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, JCMOTF. “Seeing the energy in their faces and watching them do everything we taught them almost perfectly was just awesome.”
Neither the military nor the hospital had extra money to buy many supplies for the training event. As a homework assignment, each student had to bring in a homemade tourniquet.
“At first we thought having next to zero supplies would be a huge problem,” said Sgt. 1st Class Stacey Love, JCMOTF medical trainer from the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade. “They really put their heart into making their own tourniquets, splints and bandages. In a real situation, that may be exactly what they would have to do. So despite it being a hurdle, we overcame it as a team and used it to our benefit.”
During the exercise, the students pulled bystanders to assist roping off the area, organizing supplies and searching for useful material. One bystander, van driver Rizal Pineda, helped the faux victims undress their wounds following the drill. He said he was surprised to be pulled into an official training exercise.
“I drive for a living and am on the road all the time,” said Pineda. “I see accidents all the time, and during a few I wanted to help. I didn’t know what to do and was always scared that I may get in the way. Thanks to them letting us join in on the drill, if I’m a bystander at a wreck, I know what I can do to help without interrupting the real professionals.”
In addition to the knowledge, Pineda said he felt a positive shift in his perception toward the local health professionals.
“It was nice to see them care so much and it really felt like they thought our safety is important,” he added. “If I ever need their help, I feel confident they would save my life.”
Following the drill, the JCMOTF medical team thanked the Philippine army volunteers for their realistic performance as accident victims. The students, who consisted of actual ambulance drivers, barangay health workers and provincial emergency personnel, gave their feedback on the refresher course. Many expressed gratitude for the thorough teaching. For ambulance driver Roberto Correos, it was an opportunity to lead.
“At first, we were very disorganized, which is what we would be feeling if we just arrived on scene to such a hectic accident,” said Correos. “As we began assessing, we figured out the best way to work together and direct those offering help. I think we did a great job (and) feel very prepared for an actual life or death moment and thank the Philippine and U.S. team for helping us.”
The training was one of several similar subject matter expert exchanges, cooperative health engagements, and medical, dental and veterinary community relations projects being performed by Combined/Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force units in support of exercise Balikatan 2013.
Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral exercise. Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable the Philippine and American service-members to build lasting relationships, train together and provide assistance in communities where the need is the greatest.