Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Training Makes the Difference

Being prepared in combat requires training as well as opportunities to model that training. As a chaplain, I covenant to nurture the living, care for the dying, and honor the dead. As my role requires me to be with wounded and dying soldiers, I want to be sure that in addition to comforting and encouraging soldiers' minds and spirits I am also able to help care for their bodies' if needed. Early this summer I participated in a combat lifesaver course conducted by our medics and supervised by my dear friend Major Roof.
A course requirement is successfully administering an IV. Regardless of how brave one might be when it comes to bullets and bombs--needles are a different obstacle altogether. Some soldiers are fine with getting stuck, but can't easily bring themselves to stick another--I have no problem with either. (Notice the calm expression on my face as my training partner, Captain Cage, tries my other arm. Then notice her contrasting expression of pain--and it only took me once. In all fairness, the anxiety of administering an IV is two fold: puncturing the skin with a needle, kind of easy actually, and inserting the much thicker plastic catheter or tube into the vein--painful regardless how ginger one's touch might be.) An opportunity to model that training happened within a week of completing the course. An unannounced MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise at FOB Dagger (our previous home on the banks of the Tigris) required us to assess casualties, administer immediate aid, coordinate air evacuation, etc. Although it was only a training exercise, everything was treated as if real, actual IVs were administered, helicopters were called in, etc. I administered an IV to a soldier lying on the hot concret. Evacuating casualties (even if their wounds are imagined--their weight and the summer heat is very real) is a good work out. I hope to stress that all the pictures here are taken in a training environment; in the real thing no one is standing around taking pictures, nor is it in good taste to share something like that. Although I have had experience ministering to wounded and dying soldiers, I have not (thankfully) experienced it often enough that I think clearly during the event--during those critical minutes one is either trained or unprepared. I appreciate the value the Army places on training, and the money, time, and resources we dedicate to that end. I see an obvious spiritual parallel in this combat principle. If we skimp on the spiritual training: service, prayer, study, worship, etc.--then when life's trials and challenges are sprung on us it will be too late to do anything but fail.

Training is a perfect segue into the very good news that the Chicago White Sox handily defeated the Boston Red Sox (14-2) in game one of the American League Division Series. Although I wouldn't necessarily equate Chicago with good and Boston with evil, I do see that training, skill, and opportunity have the makings for success. This being said, it still amazes me that the $50,000 I am holding in this picture--a down payment on a local school, police station, or water treatment facility in the Tikrit area--is still less than what Paul Konerko (pictured above) makes PER GAME.

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