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NEWS | Sept. 18, 2008

The most important training you will ever receive

By Col. Robert Miller 79th Medical Group Commander

Training is a topic that brings out mixed emotions for many. We all understand the importance of training as we fight and the desire to stay on the cutting edge. However, the list of annual training requirements is robust for most jobs. 

As a commander, I would be the first to admit that all training is not created equal. Some is clearly more important than others, and priority may depend on timing. For example, "just in time training" prior to a deployment frequently results in a new sense of urgency for those getting ready to head out the door realizing lives may depend on skills being taught. 

Frequently, something that didn't seem as critical a year ago when it was being done to fulfill an annual requirement takes on new importance. I certainly had this experience with my staff prior to my deployment to Iraq as an EMEDS commander. 

Realizing I am biased as a Doc, I would suggest that the most important training any of us will ever receive and may even save a life is Self Aid Buddy Care training. Unfortunately, not all Airmen share this passion and reluctantly go through the mandatory annual training (both computer based and hands-on) only after being found delinquent at the end of the month following pressure from leadership. SABC training also gets a boost prior to major inspections and deployments, but why should it be that way? 

SABC is designed for non-medical people, and most importantly, it works whether used on the battlefields of Iraq or at Andrews AFB. The statistics from OIF and OEF are staggering. Air Force medics are proud to state that greater than 95 percent of those injured in theater who make it to an EMEDS alive will survive, but what is done in the field prior to transport to a medical facility makes all the difference. For every 10 soldiers who die from battle injuries, nine never make it to a medical facility. 

Effective SABC is key in the critical minutes following a traumatic event. Soldiers die from blood loss and being unable to breathe after losing their airway. Luckily, this is less common thanks to SABC, and I have personally witnessed countless success stories while in Iraq. 

Skills taught at SABC are not rocket science, and anyone can learn these life saving techniques. In addition, the new Individual First Aid Kits issued to all deployed personnel gives our Airmen cutting edge tools to save a life. The IFAK is the cornerstone of the hands-on portion of a SABC course. Even without an IFAK, it all starts with basic knowledge attained during SABC training. 

If a family member, friend, fellow Airman or stranger on the street needs you to intervene after a traumatic event when a medic is not immediately available, be ready to use your SABC skills to save a life. Simply stated, there aren't enough trained medics available for every medical emergency...and timing is everything. The bottom line is "every Airman is a first responder". Always be ready to make a difference and take SABC training seriously, whether getting ready for a deployment or not. You will not regret it!