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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel Smith, with 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, 3d Marine Division, takes the final practical application exam during Tactical Combat Casualty Care training at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 20, 2021. TCCC training reinforces Marines and Sailors’ ability to provide lifesaving care and to limit the risk of casualties on the battlefield.

Photo by LCpl. Juan Carpanzano

How to save a life: Marines learn casualty care

1 Feb 2021 | Lance Cpl. Jackson Dukes 3rd Marine Division

Using a true-to-life mannequin that mimics a casualty in pain, complete with screams and fake blood, Marines with 3d Marine Division trained to save lives during a Level II Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) certification course on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.

The three-day course, Jan. 20-22, 2021, resulted in certification as a Combat Life Saver and included classroom instruction, practical application, and a culminating evaluation requiring students to demonstrate newly acquired TCCC skills in a stress-induced environment replicating a combat scenario.

“It’s a fantastic course, and I will definitely be pushing my Marines through. I would recommend it for every Marine,” stated Captain Joshua Cuyler, a platoon commander with 3d Reconnaissance Battalion and one of the TCCC students.

During the classroom instruction phase of training, students are taught multiple techniques and procedures using the MARCH process. Massive hemorrhages, airways, respirations, circulation, and head to toe assessment make up the process, or MARCH, is a five-step process that guides users through the steps to quickly assess a casualty and begin lifesaving measures.

“The practical application and classroom instruction go through the MARCH process, which is extremely beneficial, breaking down exactly what the steps are,” said Cuyler, “Breaking that down and showing the student exactly what they should be looking for, identifying those symptoms, and treating them in a manner that’s quick enough to save that Marines life was extremely beneficial.”

As forward-deployed force postured for rapid response, 3d Marine Division leverages TCCC training to ensure Marines are ready to employ combat life saver techniques and procedures. The course instructors use their experiences as corpsmen to help train Marines in TCCC. TCCC is also a requirement for pre-deployment training, allowing Marines with 3d Marine Division to remain in a high state of readiness at all times.

“It’s really important for us to get Marines trained, as far as Combat Life Saver goes, because they are always at the forefront,” stated U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class, George Javier, the lead instructor. “They're always first in line … That’s why we train Marines in TCCC.”

This was not the first time the Marines experienced Combat Life Saver training. During recruit training, Marines are taught the basics of tourniquet application, stopping minor hemorrhages, and more in order to get familiar with basic life-saving techniques.

“It’s pretty remarkable, if you think about it, that we train every person from the lowest to the highest on TCCC,” said U.S. Navy Commander Peter Cole, the 3d Marine Division Surgeon General. “Some of the techniques that you learn in TCCC are things that only medical providers can do in the civilian community. They are recognized as having that lifesaving capability, and so we push it down to the lowest level.”
As the Division Surgeon General, Cole is responsible for the oversight of all medical training within 3d Marine Division, and his goal and mission is to have every Marine and Sailor within the division trained and certified in Tactical Combat Casualty Care.

“It has been shown time and time again that if everyone is trained in TCCC, not just the corpsmen but every single Marine, the likelihood of someone surviving combat injuries is much higher than it’s ever been in the history of the world,” Cole said.

Cuyler added, “I think the realism that the instructors and training aides offer to each student is the most challenging part. You don't really know what you’re going to get, as far as wounds or situations, so when you immediately respond to a casualty, you really have to go through the MARCH process to ensure you are treating the casualty in accordance with what could cause the most damage or loss of life down to the least likely item. Which is extremely important especially when your blood starts pumping, you are fatigued, or you’re under a little bit of stress.”