This article was written by Jonathan Weiss and originally published by SOFREP.
Special Operations combat medicine is an extremely important capability and has been the difference between life and death for operators. In Naval Special Warfare, hand-picked SEALs and SWCCs are chosen to attend the Special Operations Combat Medic Course or the Special Operations Tactical Paramedic Course.
Prospective Special Operations Combat Medics go through extensive and challenging training with a relatively high attrition rate. They get a crash course in everything from anatomy and physiology, delivering babies, screening for cancer, and of course combat trauma. The sequence for treating battlefield casualties is drilled into their heads until it becomes second nature.
Of course, fine-tuned skills such as these have an expiration date and can become perishable if not continuously practiced.
Therefore, Special Operations medics are required to attend a two-week-long refresher course every two years. This allows medics to stay current on all of their qualifications, knock off the dust, and learn about the newest treatments and techniques that Special Operations medicine has to offer.
With that being said, two years is a long time. Within a two year period, on average, NSW medics will have gone on one deployment. Many deployments for SEAL Teams and Special Boat Teams are non-combat, meaning there’s little chance for medics to be exposed to trauma incidents. Even on combat deployments, the goal is always to prevent casualties. The point is, it’s not unusual for medics to have little to no exposure to high-intensity combat trauma training until they attend the refresher course.
What’s the Solution?
The solution to this problem? In comes Naval Special Warfare Group 1’s Tactical Medical Cell (NSWG-1 TMC), in Coronado, CA. This new cell has created an advanced course in Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) and Prolonged Field Care (PFC), specially tailored for Special Operations medics and Independent Duty Corpsman (IDCs). Under NSWG-1 are SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7, NSW Unit 1 (Guam), and NSW Unit 3 (Bahrain).
The new TCCC and PFC course is one week-long. It is hosted at Naval Medical Center San Diego BioSkills and Simulation Training Center.
IDCs are highly trained Corpsmen that have undergone extensive clinical and combat trauma training. They are assigned to SEAL Teams and Special Boat Teams to work full time in the medical department, treating operators and support staff. IDCs will sometimes deploy with Platoons and Boat Detachments as well and can be operational depending on the situation.
In an article published by DVIDS, Commader Levi Kitchen, the Training Director of the Tactical Medical Cell, pointed out that, “IDCs and SEAL medics have completely separate training pipelines, rarely do they interact in a training environment which can lead to confusion with roles, responsibilities and capabilities in the operational environment. By focusing this course on a SEAL team’s medics and IDCs, they are able to train together and become a fully integrated medical treatment team.”
Kitchen went on to say, “To my knowledge, there is no training like this within NSW that is organically sourced amongst Department of Defense (DoD) components. There are courses similar to this, but they are generally contracted out with a heavy price tag. Though labor-intensive for the NSWG-1 TMC, we provide advanced training for a fraction of the cost.”
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