FALLUJAH, Iraq -- They conduct patrols and raids, fight insurgents and live alongside U.S. Marines here, working toward the day when they will completely take the reigns of managing their native country’s security.
They are the soldiers of the Iraqi army.
As they perform their mission of providing security and stability to the city’s residents, Marines and sailors with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based infantry unit, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, are continually training them to prepare for this mission.
For five days, the soldiers sit in classrooms and run about the training compound’s fields, as the U.S. troops instruct them on topics such as patrolling, urban war fighting and weapons handling.
Working alongside them also is Petty Officer 2nd Class ‘Doc’ Phillip Jean-Gilles, a corpsman who ensures the Iraqi soldiers are as ready to take care of each other as they are to fight.
“I’m teaching these individuals first aid, how to do initial casualty assessment and provide secondary care,” explained the 26-year-old Miami native. “Basically, how to care for other individuals under fire and while the mission is still going on.”
The 1997 Sunset Senior High School graduate teaches the combat lifesaving portion of the curriculum. This is divided into two portions: primary and secondary care.
“Primary care covers actions you take under fire, when you have to go through an immediate process,” Jean-Gilles explained. “You have to stabilize him, assess for any major hemorrhages, and clear an airway to breathe through.”
Following this stabilization phase, Jean-Gilles teaches the Iraqi troops about secondary care.
“At that point, you do more detailed care interventions,” he continued. “I teach these guys to differentiate how to care for people under fire, and then, how to conduct secondary care in a more secure area.”
Other procedures taught include how to apply tourniquets and move a casualty safely to an evacuation zone.
Jean-Gilles is assisted in his tasks by his fellow instructors as well. Marines like Cpl. Randolf Ramirez are certified combat lifesavers, meaning they have attended a course teaching them similar combat first aid principles they currently teach the Iraqi soldiers.
The instructors also know the Iraqi forces currently do not have the sophisticated medical and first aid gear U.S. personnel deploy with. Nevertheless, Jean-Gilles shows them how to save lives with the equipment they do have.
“These individuals aren’t going to have a lot of medical supplies, so I teach them how use a cravat in different types of ways,” he explained. “I teach them how to use it as a sling and a pressure bandage, because that’s pretty much all they’re going to have until they can get more medical attention.”
Students who retain the knowledge he is teaching are rewarded, Jean-Gilles added.
“We assess them from day one to the last training day. Once I teach my classes, my guys look for individuals who take the initiative, ask questions, and act upon the information we’ve given them. We designate him the ‘combat lifesaver’ of the class.”
Instructors issue this motivated Iraqi soldier an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK), similar to the one every Marine carries in country, with items such as cravats.
“This lets the class know that if they put in the time and effort, they can also be rewarded for their hard work,” Jean-Gilles stated. “He gets to keep this kit, and during the FTX (final training exercise), this individual is the designated combat lifesaver.”
The Iraqis put all the skills they’ve learned over the past five days to use during the FTX. The soldiers patrol up to a building to clear it of mock insurgents and, upon simulating receiving fire, they take casualties. The designated combat lifesaver takes charge to successfully tend to the wounded individual.
After completing this exercise, the soldiers graduate the Combat Leaders’ Course. Jean-Gilles and his fellow instructors wait to receive the next batch of trainees.
During the training, however, Jean-Gilles role was not limited to that of an instructor. This corpsman still lived by the words of his oath, to ‘hold the care of the sick and injured to be a privilege and a sacred trust,’ and to ‘dedicate my heart, mind, and strength to the work before me.’
He tended to any medical needs his fellow instructors had, but also, to the welfare of his Iraqi students.
On May 11, Jean-Gilles put the training he had been teaching in class to use.
“They (instructors) called me up, telling me that this individual had become disoriented and dizzy in class,” he explained. “We took him outside, to the shade, and laid him on the ground. I checked his pulse and began the process of re-hydrating him.”
With Ramirez’s help, Jean-Gilles took off the soldier’s uniform top and administered a sodium chloride solution IV. Minutes later, the soldier regained full consciousness. All the while, Jean-Gilles remained at his side.
“He was looking around, but he wasn’t laughing yet. I tried to tell him some Iraqi jokes, but I didn’t know any.”
Jean-Gilles and his fellow instructors still have several months left here to continue training the nation’s security forces. For now, the corpsman said he is considering the possibilities the future holds for him when he returns stateside.
“I’m trying to get back into college and earn my degree,” the former student of criminal justice said. “Now that I’ve been in the medical field, I’m going to choose a different path. If I stay in the military, I want to get into IDC (independent duty corpsman) school. I can transfer my IDC skills to the PA (physician assistant) work I want to do in the civilian world.”
Physician assistants are trained to provide services such as diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services under the supervision of a physician, what Jean-Gilles called “being a doctor’s right-hand man.”
While he decides what path to take, the ‘doc’ remains motivated to carry out his present duties of training Iraq’s soldiers.
“I’ve had a lot of fun training these guys. They’re very enthusiastic. They want to better themselves, and that’s a key point.”