Wednesday, September 2, 2009


The figures in this article are as of 3March, 2009. – Ed.


Combat lifesaver (CLS)—two words, three letters, but a great task and a humbling responsibility. Since the inception of the Iraq War campaign on 3 March, 2003 and until today, the United States has had a fatality of service members totaling 4,245. Of these deaths, it is believed that 19 percent of them were preventable, which means that 807 Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors could still be here with us today.

If the proper preventive methods had been taken, 807 families would not have had to receive the dreaded notification that a loved one died. It is to this need that many U.S. Army unit commanders deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan want their Soldiers CLS qualified or to become qualified in theater. Not to be outdone, and seeing the wisdom and necessity in preventive care, commanders in other branches have also adopted this standard.


In January 2009, four Soldiers of the 374th Financial Management Company, Brigade Troops Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade participated in a CLS class instructed by Sgt. Nicholas Canale and Staff Sgt. Jeremy G. Green, both of Fort Carson, Colo., for the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq.

Some of these Soldiers were taking the class for the first time, others for recertification. The motto of the class was “Tourniquet, tourniquet, tourniquet!” As instructor, Canale pointed out, “Not all deaths are preventable, and you cannot save everybody! This class is about getting you ready for the persons that you can aid. Not giving you the skills needed to perform operations in the midst of battle, but rather life-saving techniques that can be used to aid the casualties, so they can make it back to a medical care professional.”

The instructors went on with the daunting task of teaching the class of 15 Airmen and four Soldiers the importance of CLS, the history behind the need for it, and the statistics of the loss and damage done to service members, all due to the lack of preventive medical measures. While often mixing in humor to ease minds of personnel who are not used to the blood and gore of the medical profession, Green shared his own life-altering experience and brush with death that brought home the need for the CLS classes.


Green went on to recap his time as medic in an infantry battalion, describing how a routine mission that was going well and with no loss of life or injuries went totally in a different direction at the last second.

“The unit I was in was done with its mission, and we were in our trucks heading back to the base and literally about 150–200 meters from the gate when the lead vehicle was hit by a suicide bomber in a car. I was in the vehicle behind it!” He went on to say that another bomb-laden vehicle was approaching the rear of the column, when Soldiers there fired on the vehicle, killing its driver. The point of the story was that while three Soldiers died that day, all of those that lived through the explosion could say they did so because of properly trained Soldiers who gave them first aid that allowed them to make it back to medical care professionals.

After the class was completed, first-time CLS graduate Sgt. Cody Smith, a native of Lock Haven, Pa., stated, “I now better understand the need for CLS; the knowledge is useful in both civilian and military life. ‘Tourniquet, tourniquet, tourniquet’ was the class motto, but the tip is to keep one on you at all times, so you’ll be prepared to aid a brother in arms or a civilian casualty. The Army provides you with a Combat Application Tourniquet; keep it in your lower pocket!”

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