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TEMS Trains the Tactical Team

Written by Cara Donlon-Cotton

Your tactical team might have some of the best trainers around just sitting in the outer perimeter, keeping all that knowledge and experience to themselves. Tactical medics can, and should, be used during regular training sessions. At minimum, they can be used to recognize and treat dehydration or common training injuries (ankle sprains), and at maximum, they can lead training segments.

Your medics can also offer valuable insight into “buddy first-aid” and proper methods for moving downed offers based on specific wound patterns. But if you really want to tap into the resources of your TEMS unit, have them plan TEMS training for the whole team.

For your TEMS unit to offer a team-specific training session, first allow them to train with the team. Let them get up close and personal with each facet of your own relevant training. By doing so, you are allowing them to gather crucial medical information that can be used to form a better treatment plan for similar missions.

For example, are you doing explosive breaching? Allow them to set up dummies in the places a team member or civilian would be located and then set off the charge. The medics can then examine the dummies and assess the wound patterns, allowing them to get valuable information about the type of treatment a real live person in that situation would require. Two things ensue from this: 1) They are more aware of what medical situations they might be handling in the future, and 2) they can offer specific and realistic buddy first-aid training so you will be better equipped to help the officer next to you.

Your TEMS unit, of course, should always be present when conducting live-fire exercises. But it would be beneficial to let them become familiar with not only the types of weaponry that will be fired, but also the locations of shooters. This will enable the medics to make better decisions about wound treatments because they will know what caliber ammunition was used and the approximate location from which it was fired. Basically, the more information they have, the better your treatment will be.

Some of the most valuable training a TEMS unit can offer a tactical team revolves around symptom awareness. By teaching you the warning signs of typical—but dangerous—conditions, such as dehydration, fatigue, heatstroke and hypothermia, the TEMS unit essentially creates a team of amateur diagnosticians. You may be able to recognize the symptoms in yourself or in your teammate in enough time to ward off true trouble.

Other ways exist for you to use your medics as trainers, for instance, CPR instruction. Chances are, depending upon their certification level, they can probably re-certify you for your department’s CPR requirement. But your TEMS unit can be used in more than just a medical-training capacity; they can also offer insight into tactical training. It has been well-documented how one’s body reacts to stress and how that bodily reaction can have an impact on performance. Have your medics prove to team members how beneficial counter-stress measures, such as tactical breathing, can be on missions.

Have your medics take the blood pressure and pulse rates of team members before you send them into a realistic training scenario (shoot house) and then take those vital signs afterward. If possible, perhaps your medics can even rig up some sort of device that can record such data while team members are participating. Anyone can thump his chest and declare himself to be “the man,” but that elevated heart rate will prove to him that he is, truly, just a man.

The medical information offered by your TEMS unit doesn’t have to be limited to interesting factoids, though. While it’s definitely interesting to know what someone’s Condition Red heart rate variability is, it’s even better to know how to control it. Your TEMS unit can offer de-stressing tips and breathing control methods.

Similarly, your tactical medics can offer advice on physical training injuries; they can do a simple assessment and advise whether you need to ice and rest that shoulder or if it’s finally time to schedule that MRI. And don’t forget, medical professionals are usually the best ones to recommend doctors, specialists, surgeons, etc.

Also consider broadening the scope of your medics’ support function—how does the team feel about the medics gathering pertinent medical information about the members for use in treatment? Is there someone who might go into anaphylactic shock after receiving a bee sting and would benefit from a medic having that information? What about a diabetic? Or someone who is recovering from knee surgery? Or someone whose religious background prohibits specific medical treatment, such as a transfusion? While these are questions of medical privacy and personal preference, remember that the more information the pre-hospital medical personnel have, the better the outcome.

If you have medics, use them…not just for band-aids and suspect/civilian treatment on missions, but for the vital resources they have. Your medics are already teeming with medical knowledge—give them the tactical knowledge, and your whole team will benefit from their expertise.

Cara Donlon-Cotton is a former course developer for the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and a recognized Master Instructor by GA POST. She can be reached via e-mail at cdonloncotton@yahoo.com.

Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2009

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