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Combat Care: The Evolution

010

Decade to decade, war to war, combat medics have been on the frontlines tending to injured troops, but each conflict is different.  So, as battle tactics evolve so does battle medicine.  We’ll tell you how that’s changing the number of troops killed in action.
Bodies spread across a field, mass casualties, and mass confusion. For one group of combat medics in week five of training it’s their first battlefield simulation. They have to decide whose injuries are the most life-threatening then treat the troops as fast as they can in a chaotic environment. 
“The training is as real as we can make it, with the time that we have,” Sgt. Michael Mazzoni, a combat medic instructor told Ivanhoe.
Instructor Michael Mazzoni knows firsthand how real things can get in combat.  He was a medic in Iraq back in 2009.  That’s when an explosion hit his foot patrol just south of Baghdad.
“I could feel the shrapnel burning,” Sgt. Mazzoni said.
It lodged in his abdomen so he had to direct the troops he was there to treat…to treat him.  But when he heard another soldier was wounded....
“I could have cared less how bad my injuries were,” Sgt. Mazzoni said.
They were bad enough to keep him in the hospital. He woke up there Christmas morning. The guilt of not being in the field with his men was as excruciating as his wounds.

“Your soldiers are still down range and you’re not and about a month after that …I lost a new soldier.” Sgt. Mazzoni said.
According to the Army, the survival rate of wounded warriors during World War II was under 70 percent.  It went up to 76.5 percent during Vietnam.  Now, service members hurt in Iraq and Afghanistan have a survival rate of more 90 percent! The training is constantly changing.  For instance, Mazzoni says when the raid of Baghdad began in 2003 medics were focused on dealing with chemical and nuclear contamination.  Now TC3 or tactical combat casualty care has taken over. Medics are trained to focus on traumatic injuries caused by IED’s improvised explosive devices or RPG’s rocket propelled grenades. Sergeant William Martinez was hit by an RPG in Afghanistan. 
“I got injured in my eye,” Sgt. William Martinez told Ivanhoe.
Despite the shrapnel that pierced his skull, the gunner fired back taking out several insurgents.  Then, he was shot in the leg.
“I saw the Taliban coming on the rooftops to my position. I thought at that moment I was gone,” Sgt. Martinez explained.
But something gave him hope.
“I saw the medic. He was relaxed, calm. He gave me the confidence that I was going to make it out of there alive,” Sgt. William Martinez said.
That 19-year-old medic patched up Martinez and he started fighting again.  The Chilean native received the bronze star with valor and got a Purple Heart and his U.S citizenship on the same day.
"I am an American citizen,” Sgt. Martinez said.
One who thanks a teenager for saving his life. Now, Martinez looks forward to getting back to the frontlines.
“I just want to go back to Afghanistan,” Sgt. Martinez added.
And Mazzoni can’t wait to get back to treating troops.
“We’ll you don’t want to end your last deployment on your back,” Sgt. Mazzoni said.
Both Martinez and Mazzoni say they have been cleared to head back to the battlefield at some point. Right now, there are more than 20,000 combat medics on active duty, 11, 500 in the National Guard, and close to 10,000 in the Reserves.