NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Italy -- Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric G. Christiansen knows the reality of saving lives
in combat and he wants to make sure Marines receive the same
While on a mission north of the Kabul International Airport in
Afghanistan in 2012, Christiansen was patrolling with soldiers attached to the
U.S. Army’s V Corps, alongside Afghan National Army soldiers, when an improvised
explosive device detonated. He was the only corpsman or medic, as the Army calls
them, on the patrol.
“I remember we had to get to the soldier who stepped
on the pressure plate, immediately,” stressed Christiansen. “He was severely
Christiansen and the men had to clear more than 100 yards to
reach the soldier on the ground. Upon arriving to the casualty, he immediately
pulled his tourniquets out and applied them to the injured soldier’s right leg
and left arm, both amputated from the blast, to stop the bleeding.
was a matter of seconds,” Christiansen remembered.
That’s what Christiansen and
five corpsmen and medical officers stressed to 28 Marines with Special-Purpose
Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa during a Tactical Combat
Casualty Care course, Dec. 14-18, 2015, at Naval Air Station Sigonella,
Throughout the week, the Marines learned how to use combat
application tourniquets, a nasopharyngeal airway device, how to treat sucking
chest wounds with needle decompressions, how to apply splints on fractures, when
to administer oral antibiotics and pain medication, calling in medical
evacuations over military communications and how to properly carry patients.
Marines were put to the test on the final day of instruction, vaguely
similar to what Christiansen experienced in Afghanistan. The sailors had the
Marines conduct five minutes of strenuous exercise to get their heart rates up,
followed by a loud verbal “boom” from the corpsmen. The Marines immediately
moved toward the mannequin, assessed it and applied tourniquets and splints. The
Marines then took the simulated casualty to the extraction point.
was a mimic of that because this is really nothing different than what service
members experienced the past 14 years on the battlefield,” said Christiansen.
“It was all about trying to make it real as possible for
Christiansen said a normal patrol, depending on the size, will
have one or two corpsmen with the Marines. He added if even one corpsman is
injured, the whole unit could be in trouble.
“We would be ineffective,”
Christiansen said. “That’s why we are doing this. This is why we need to have Marines,
preferably all of them, trained on this because they may be closer to the
injured Marine or even corpsman and their actions can save someone’s
Corporal Garret E. Miller, a radio technician with SPMAGT-CR-AF,
participated in the course for the reasons Christiansen said: “to know what to
do if he is ever caught in a situation.”
Visibly exhausted, sweating
profusely and taking moments to catch his breath, Miller said the course was
taxing, yet, fulfilling to know he has the knowledge if he ever finds himself in
a similar situation.
“I won’t lie, I was a little nervous beforehand
because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Miller. “But, as long as you know
what you’re doing and you’re sure of yourself, you’ll be fine. I mean, the
corpsmen made the scenario as real as it could be. There’s no time to think,
it’s just you reacting. We learned a lot here this past week and I’m extremely
confident in my new abilities because we have some very knowledgeable corpsmen
who taught us.”
Christiansen said any one of these Marines could go on a
crisis response or theater security cooperation mission in Africa and a Marine
may get injured during operations and they need to be prepared as a corpsman may
not hear the battle cry “corpsman up!”
“I’ve been to too many memorial
ceremonies in Afghanistan where we said our goodbyes before our fallen brothers
made their final trek home,” said Christiansen. “So, when I was asked what type
of training we could be doing while here in Italy, this is the first thing I
said we should train the Marines. I love taking care of Marines and it’s why I
keep doing this. This is what I wake up every morning to do which is making sure
every one of them gets to come home.”