So I had an incredibly fun Labor Day weekend with friends getting our Wilderness First Aid certifications in Burnet (near Austin) Saturday and Sunday. That’s right, if we’re out Adventuring™ and for some reason you get injured, your very existence could hinge on me not freaking out and remembering how to assess and treat your injury. Chances are, this will never happen because well, I’m not Adventuring™ anywhere anytime soon. However, if you do get injured then count on me dropping a “calm bomb” and NPR voicing your ass to Life (not death, hopefully).
About the course – it’s put on (very well, I might add) by Med Training Group. MTG (not Magic: The Gathering you damn nerds) was founded by a couple of former Special Forces Medics (18D) Roland Paquette and Bert Kuntz and these two were there as instructors. Roland is now an Emergency Medicine PA in the biggest hospital in South Texas and Bert just got re-certified in a NOLS Wilderness EMT course. The third instructor, Ryan Bierle is also a PA from San Antonio. If you’re reading this then you probably know them but this was in case someone who doesn’t GORUCK is reading this.
To back it up a bit, in the mid-2000s I was interested in taking a NOLS Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course but I was like “$225? That’s damned expensive!” but I scoff at that cost being “expensive” now. That’s almost the minimum for any event I do now. That’s not an “I have all the money” comment but more of a “everything I want to do is expensive” comment. So I put it off but never really looked back into it. Then GORUCK happened and then Med Training Group happened and after waffling on it, Tripp Miller hooked it up with the discount code and then life happened for him so he couldn’t quite make it. I think everyone should take one of these classes. If not for you then maybe you’ll be able to help someone out in the future. You don’t need to take it through MTG either; REI offers these courses as well and they offer it a lot more as they are a much bigger company but it never hurts to support veteran owned businesses. That said, here’s my weekend.
The class was being held at Reveille Peak Ranch just northwest of Austin. I’d never been there because I don’t do Spartan shits ’cause I’m a lazy bastard (honestly those things just don’t appeal to me…I’m still lazy though) but a bunch of my friends or associates, if you will, have been there to Adventure shits. There is on-site camping with showers and toilets so I was like “hell yeah camping!” and I bought a new tent because I hate money and want to buy all the things and rolled into town about 1930 to try to catch Bear (Mark, Ray and Tom were also there) but they headed out west to eat at Cooper’s BBQ in Llano. I’d heard that was really awesome BBQ so I linked up with them and upon my first bite I thought it was amazing but after further review it was overly salty and other than quantity, not that amazing. Maybe I don’t have the requisite taste buds to appreciate fine food but that’s another story. We get back to camp, I set up and then the next morning I get yelled at for being the snoring-est mother f er on the planet – I unofficially officially have sleep apnea. I should see a sleep specialist or something.
Met the owner of RPR and he said they shoot RPGs there
Saturday morning we walk the 75 meters or so to the pavilion to get our learn on. I get to meet Roland for the first time and we just kind of hang out as a group until class starts. Old and new friends trickle in and this part is always awkward for me because I’m not good with faces but I kind of am so I’ve met some of these people and apparently re-met them again this weekend. Which is dumb but I can’t help it (I probably can) but I have a cool super power (not rare) where I can know everything about someone on a GORUCK Challenge and have no idea what they look like, aside from their ass and boots. So we meet and greet (and re-greet) and then the instructors (cadre?) start the class. Introductions and background and we get right into it. MARCH-T and all these other acronyms are thrown at us and it’s a lot of information to take in over 16.5 hours of classroom time but hell, that’s why we’re here right?
I recommend that if you do this course (any WFA really) to read the material before you begin. You won’t necessarily understand it all but at least you’ll have a clue when they start talking. The first thing you learn is “Scene safe! BSI!” which is to make sure the scene is safe and that you have “body substance isolation” aka gloves at a minimum on. The course introduces you to various ailments, illnesses and trauma you might encounter in the wilderness (really, anywhere you might be 30 minutes away or more from help) which is fun because you read about it happening to other people but it could never happen to you because you’re too cool. As they go through each major thing that could happen to other people (not you), they give you real world examples of the injury or illness and then how you’re supposed to respond to and treat those uh…”threats.”
There is a basic playbook you have to follow is called MARCH-T. From my memory, it was developed by the Army to maximize the chance of saving lives on the battlefield because the old way of doing it wasn’t working. MARCH-T is the order of operation you need to follow on a patient(“victim” per John Gray) to increase their chances of survival. I don’t recall what the previous method was but this new one stands for Massive bleeding, Airway, Respiration, Circulation, Hypothermia which means nothing to most but it basically boils down to stopping all major bleeding, ensuring an open airway, making sure the patient is breathing, checking for a pulse on all extremities, ensuring they aren’t in danger of hypo/hyperthermia and ‘T’ means Transport – how will you get them out of there. Following that, you have a better than zero chance of saving someone’s life if put in that situation. I learned that there are no guarantees in medicine and one of the instructors said to never say that you’ll save someone, just that you’ll do your best. I always thought that if you were a doctor you could save the shit out of people but it was reinforced this weekend that they called it “practicing medicine” for a reason.
3 people to find one Starburst!
That said, Bert, Roland and Ryan provided a bit of real world experience. Bert said that when he was running missions and after they secured the scene to make sure it was safe, he would stand there and eat a Sharkie chew before working on a patient. This would get him in the zone, so to speak. He used to eat Snickers but they’d always melt in Iraq so he had to switch over. What he meant by dropping a CalmBomb™ is that you can’t ever approach a patient looking afraid or saying “HOLY SHIT YOU ARE FUCKED!!” You don’t want to approach a patient scared out of your wits and have that be their last memory before they pass (if that’s the case) being your hysterical ass. You want to use your NPR voice and be as calm and mellow in your voice as you can so they don’t get scared. It’s very reassuring to the patient I hear.
So the class teaches you over and over how to approach a scene (Scene safe! BSI! CalmBomb™ MARCH-T) and then how to start checking people and then practicing it over several scenarios. It was really fun getting to practice (don’t worry, everyone feels like the biggest idiot when doing it – maybe that’s my default setting) and watch others go through it. Our class had a mix of people from as young as 14 years old up to those in their mid-50s (maybe?). If you get to role play as a patient, I’d also recommend taking advantage of that. You get to learn way more than when practicing. In my case, I learned how many steps I forgot to do when examining a patient: I didn’t do the head tilt, chin lift or check the patient’s mouth and it’s so calling yourself a dumb ass. My most notable incident was looking for an injury “Starburst candy taped on a patient” and not being able to find it. I searched 3 times and didn’t find it…it was taped to her ankle! Every step is important because sometimes you can’t assume that you did a good job. It’s OK though…had another student not find it as well. I am very confident that everyone left knowing a lot more than when they started and that everyone would be confident approaching a scene. That’s not to say we’d doctor the shit out of people (because we can’t) but we’d have a better than zero chance of helping. Which is all you can ask for in a crazy scenario.
That don’t look right…
I don’t know if I revealed too much or not so this may be edited later. Now I have to look around to see what gear I want to buy. Most likely I’ll just buy the MTG kit because it comes in a sweet red and black case. I have a couple of tourniquets and am confident in their application as that will most likely be my biggest issue in the mean streets of Euless/Irving. Having taken (and passed) the class, when I call 911 to come rescue you I can be more descriptive. Instead of saying “this dude is hurt and needs help!” I’ll be a bad ass and say “uhhhh…this dude is hurt really bad and he needs help uh…now!” Kidding. Mostly.