Coalition Medical Training Saves Iraqi Lives


Army Sgt. Kyle Nusbaum was teaching combat lifesaving skills to a class of Iraqi Federal Police recruits when their classroom skills actually enabled them to save lives.

Soldier poses for photo in Iraq.
Army Sgt. Kyle Nusbaum was teaching combat lifesaving skills to a class of Iraqi Federal Police recruits when their classroom skills actually enabled them to save lives. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. De-Juan Haley
Soldier poses for photo in Iraq.
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Army Sgt. Kyle Nusbaum was teaching combat lifesaving skills to a class of Iraqi Federal Police recruits when their classroom skills actually enabled them to save lives. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. De-Juan Haley

A loud explosion near the classroom didn’t seem unusual, because he was teaching at a clinic near a training site. But moments later, someone rushed in with horrifying news: a gas tank had exploded, and there were casualties.

The Federal Police students met victims of the explosion in the walk-in area of the clinic and put their first-aid skills to use, applying tourniquets and evaluating the victims for more injuries. One victim arrived with partial amputations to both legs, and the students were able to stop the bleeding, stabilize with intravenous fluids, and arrange for transfer of the casualties to the 47th Combat Support Hospital at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center for further care.

The Italian Carabinieri, another coalition partner with an integral role in training the Federal Police, coordinated the triage and transportation of the injured personnel. The Carabinieri’s control over the chaotic situation allowed the students to help the victims.

Medical training that coalition forces provide to their Iraqi partners saves lives, and it is on track to save more. Nusbaum, a combat medic assigned to Task Force Medical 47, was able to witness his students use the six months of medical training they had received to save lives in the very facility where they received their training.

Fast Response

“It was one of the fastest response times I’ve seen for transferring a patient. Their knowledge of the skills, and their application of those skills in a timely matter, absolutely contributed to getting them to the CSH that quick,” Nusbaum said. “Twelve months ago, if that patient had come into this clinic, I doubt they would have made it out alive.”

Task Force Medical 47 operates under Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition of nations and partner organizations that advise and assist partner forces in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi Federal Police began their medical training after members of the medical task force were invited to observe and grade a basic combat lifesaver skills demonstration. But task force members felt it was inappropriate to grade the students without witnessing the training the students had received. Subsequently, Task Force Medical 47 was invited to assist with the medical training.

“The theater mission, from our understanding, was to help create a local national force that was self-sustaining and self-sufficient,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Kelley, noncommissioned officer in charge of the emergency medical treatment team at the 47th Combat Support Hospital. Kelley said the question asked by the chain of command was; “If this is supposed to be self-sustaining, why are we just teaching [combat lifesaving skills]? Why don’t we teach a CLS instructor course so that the local Federal Police can now teach themselves?”

Army Col. Robert Howe, then the commander of Task Force Medical at the Baghdad Diplomatic Security Center, approved training for intermediate and advanced medical courses, which would qualify the Iraqi policemen to instruct others. Kelley, along with key members of Task Force Medical 47, were instrumental in developing programs of instruction that provided a detailed description of the course and phase content, duration of instruction, and resources used to conduct the class.

Self-Sustaining Training

Several members of the Iraqi Federal Police have completed the advanced course and are now qualified to teach the basic combat lifesaving skills course and see patients in their own clinic.

“I have Iraqi Federal Police instructors training CLS for the Iraqis, saving lives for the Iraqis. That’s self-sustaining. That’s why we are here,” Kelley said. “We can teach anybody, but having somebody take that instruction and apply it, and then to share that knowledge with their counterparts -- what that does is keep us from having to come back and do this again and again and again.”

Coalition combat lifesaving skills training of partner forces does not stop with Task Force Medical 47 and the Federal Police. Army 1st Lt. Daniel Gebhardt, a physician’s assistant at the Camp Union III clinic in Baghdad, said 12 members of the Iraqi army living at Union III were trained in basic combat lifesaving.