Afghan doctors barked orders as nurses responded, quickly preparing injections and taking notes as the big round clock in the back of the room ticked ominously.
Among the blue smocks and sandaled feet stood two commando medics from the 3rd Commando Kandak in Kandahar province, curiously watching as blood bags were passed from hand-to-hand and wounds were wrapped by adept fingers. On the final day of residency for the students at the Kandahar Regional Medical Hospital, the medics know when they should step in to help and when it is best to take a step back.
“We developed this program with the Kandahar Regional Hospital staff after realizing that it could supplement training the commando medics typically receive,” explained a US Special Forces medic responsible for implementing the residency program. “There are 19 medics in the battalion, but only ten have completed the medic training given at the Kabul Military Training Center. By integrating them into the hospital, the medics gain invaluable firsthand experience.”
The commandos cycle through the program two at a time. The medics are paired by experience, with one senior medic and one less-experienced medic. The medics also squeeze in short refresher classes among themselves whenever time allows.
“These commandos have been here for over two weeks and their knowledge has expanded while their confidence has inflated,” remarked an Afghan doctor who acts as a mentor to the commandos while they’re training in the intensive care unit. “I know this training will help them on the battlefield. Here, they see blood, they see pain and they see death. These are the things they will encounter out there, only they won’t have a group of doctors to talk them through it.”
During the 15-day residency program, the commandos also receive daily classes on battlefield medicine. Coalition force doctors and nurses take turns teaching classes to the commando and Afghan national army medics, ranging from the proper application of a tourniquet to applying flutter valves and splints. Coalition doctors have incorporated adult-size manikins into the course to enhance the learning environment. Aside from the practical training received in the intensive care unit, the manikin classes are the commando’s favorite part of the course.
“We didn’t have plastic bodies at my school,” remarked the commando senior medic, Sgt. Alingaray, in reference to the manikins.
“They make the classes seem more realistic and much easier to follow.”
“After talking to the medics and the hospital staff, we want to extend the residency program from 15 days to 30,” remarked a Special Forces medic. “The commandos are very excited about working in the hospital and really pay attention when they’re there. But 15 days are lacking. However, if we extend the program to a full 30 days, we will cycle four commandos through at a time, instead of only two.”
With the residency program showing success, the Afghan National Army is jumping on board, planning to mimic the same program for their medics.
“This training enhances the medical capability of the commando unit and provides patient experience for the medics in a modern medical facility,” said the Special Forces medic. “We want the medics to receive as much real-world hands-on training as possible to bolster their confidence and competence.
“Ultimately, we hope to train the entire battalion on basic-trauma care,” said the Special Forces medic. “But when that training happens, we want the commandos to teach it.”