Learning how to save a life is a skill that may mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield. That is why when I was given the opportunity to participate in the Combat Lifesaver Course at Fort Bragg, I leapt at the opportunity.
I got to the course, located near the shooting ranges, miles away from any housing or day-to-day buildings, and was excited to learn.
The cold morning air, the kind that freezes your fingers and makes your ears go numb, was the first thing I noticed as I walked toward the course building across the long, dirt parking lot. I recall wishing the training would take place indoors to avoid the frigid weather.
We walked into the building and were separated into two classrooms. The course instructors seemed to be extremely knowledgeable and spoke in a way where one could assume they had been doing this for quite some time.
I sat down in the classroom excited to learn but hesitant because I didn’t know what would be expected of me.
Our first day was an introduction to what we would be learning and the responsibility of being a certified Combat Lifesaver.
While I understood everything the instructors were saying about the seriousness of being a lifesaver, I felt like I wouldn’t truly understand until we began the hands-on training.
My understanding of the seriousness of this training grew when they showed a video of a Soldier suffering a traumatic injury, and he was losing large amounts of blood. The scene was so chaotic. The medics around him were scrambling and yelling out to one another about what to do to save his life.
It became evident to me this course wasn’t just a class I was attending, but it would teach me skills that could mean the difference between life and death.
After the classroom instruction, which lasted only a few hours, we finally made it to the hands-on part of the training. We were paired up in groups and given a battle scenario in which one of us was injured and needed a tourniquet. I was chosen to be the first “injured” Soldier, and we all filed outside into the cold I had been hoping to avoid.
I laid down across from my partners on the frozen grass, and I thought my job was simple — I would just lay there and let them apply the tourniquet on me.
But as I laid there, I began to think about what could cross an injured Soldier’s mind during this moment.
“Am I going to make it?”
“Will I see my family again?”
These thoughts added to my understanding of how realistic the course was.
I waited for about 60 seconds until finally I heard the word, “Go!” being bellowed by one of the instructors.
My partners rushed to me and instantly applied pressure to the simulated wound on my right arm, and they began applying the tourniquet.
They slid the tourniquet up my arm and tightened it. They kept tightening it until it began to feel like a python was trying to squeeze the life out of my right arm.
During this time, I kept recalling the video of the Soldier with the real-life trauma to his leg. I couldn’t imagine the pain he must have felt, let alone the fear.
We continued to learn about areas of the body to apply a tourniquet as the exercise finished.
The following day of the course we learned about chest seals and, again, we watched a video during the classroom instruction.
As the video rolled, showing a Soldier suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest, I saw the looks of fear, horror and disgust on my classmates’ faces. The Soldier on screen screamed and screamed as the blood kept pouring out of the wound.
Maybe it was the sight of the blood or the screaming, but the reality set in for me — I might be the person in the midst of all that chaos that would be the only one that could save that Soldier’s life.
This course is meant to prepare us as Soldiers for the harsh reality of combat. Throughout the course, the significance of this uniform that I and many others wear became evident to me.
I also came to realize there are times that we forget what our brothers and sisters are going through overseas.
We forget that every night while we fall asleep peacefully in our own beds there are men and women out there going through hell to provide us this peace.
By the end of the course, I gained a newfound respect for medics in the Army. The job they do is one of the most important to ensuring our brothers’ and sisters’ safety.
I graduated with the title of Combat Lifesaver and feel proud and better equipped, if need be, to help save a brother or a sister’s life.