A new group of 24 Salvadoran soldiers emerged in February 2012 as the most recent graduate combat medics from a course originally developed by U.S. military. This comes as the culmination of a “train the trainer” program launched jointly by the Peruvian Military and the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Surgeon General one year earlier.
In February 2011, a collaborative assessment between medical and operational leaders from SOUTHCOM and Peru’s Military, brought to light the importance of reinforcing the front-line medical response capabilities of Peruvian armed forces members deployed in the Apurimac and Ene Rivers Valley (VRAE), a coca-growing region and hub for narcotrafficking activities in south central Peru.
At the time, Colonel Doug Lougee, SOUTHCOM Surgeon General, developed the Tactical Combat Life Saver (TCLS), a customized combat medical course designed to provide students more advanced and relevant combat medic skills for their specific duties in a remote terrain with difficult access. Col. Lougee and his team also supplied them with first aid kits used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Trainers from the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute (DMRTI) in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, participated in developing what became a tailored and standardized ‘train-the-trainer’ medical course geared to soldiers from all services who were fighting on the front lines, and who had some prior experience in leadership or teaching positions.
The initial TCLS course consisted of 28 Peruvian soldiers who were trained in combat medicine, first aid, patient evaluation and improvising stretchers and tourniquets, among others. In order to maximize this shared investment and with a vision for a long-term program, they received an additional two days of teaching skills to become trainers themselves.
In the year since the initial TCLS launched, Peru has not only trained 800 additional service members deploying to the VRAE, but has another 3,000 soldiers scheduled to receive the TCLS course in 2012-2013. The South American country’s military has adopted the course as its own by making it a standard requisite for all service members in that region, as well as for those involved in Peace Keeping Operations (PKO). In fact, as a sign of their commitment, the Peruvians purchased 3,000 first aid kits following the first course, which they are distributing to the participants of each subsequent class.
By August 2011, other partner nations, including El Salvador, had expressed their interest in receiving the same training. But instead of having the original U.S. trainers conduct it, SOUTHCOM, together with the U.S. country team in El Salvador and the Salvadoran and Peruvian military leadership, adopted an initiative to “pay it forward”: the Peruvians would teach the course to a group of 24 Salvadoran military members. During this opportunity, U.S. participation was limited to an observatory role.
“It was the first time that certified Peruvian Military personnel trained a partner nation’s military on topics related to combat medicine so that they are able to replicate the course in their country,” said Commander Guillermo Cedrón Vera, the coordinator for the course in Peru and a medic at the Peruvian Air Force.
The first group of trained Salvadorans then followed their Peruvian counterparts’ example and continued branching out by taking the lessons learned to their military brethren. Twelve Salvadoran instructors traveled to Peru to refine their teaching skills by assisting in a Peruvian-led training for 60 more VRAE-bound service members. They then returned to their home country to continue teaching. At that opportunity they taught over 100 Salvadoran service members in two back-to-back courses for groups of soldiers headed to Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Lieutenant Diana Reyes, a Salvadoran service member participating in the inaugural course in February 2012 commented, “Soldiers receive skills [during the training course] that are very useful in any type of mission and peace operation that they are assigned to… this improves the combat effectiveness of any service member.”
The Salvadoran military currently has 200 TCLS-trained service members, the efforts of which have been directed at PKO. The initiative has positioned them as the first Central American country to have a combat medic specialty as part of their military training.
“It has been extremely gratifying to see our partners in El Salvador and Peru sharing their experiences,” said Col. Lougee. “What is great about the TCLS program is that we are now seeing further development of a region-wide capacity in these critical battlefield skills,” added the Surgeon General.