Not many people know the history of CTOMS and why we got started. 10 years ago today, very early in the Afghanistan campaign, I had the unfortunate experience of being 150m away from a 500lbs bomb that was accidentally dropped on my platoon. It killed 4 of my friends and wounded 8 others. The post blast situation left me feeling quite ill prepared even with formal EMT training, even let down by the Canadian Forces for not providing adequate and appropriate training and equipment to deal with those types of situations. Upon return to Canada I took it upon myself, with the help of countless others, to ensure that no one was as unprepared as we were. We initiated the TCCC program within the Canadian Forces, running a pilot course in summer of 2003. That program still runs today and is an essential component of pre-deployment training, preparing soldiers for the realities of managing casualties in combat.
One of the critical developers of the original TCCC program was Craig, my business partner. He had been working as a TEMS Paramedic with the City of Edmonton at the time and we had randomly ran into each other when I recruited his help in the course development. We became good friends and incorporated CTOMS together with the intention of running training courses for law enforcement in TCCC.
I retired from the CF in Fall of 2006 and shortly after we were approached by the CF to run a pilot program for Medical Technicians in Tactical Medicine. The idea was a more advanced level course than the current TCCC course. That pilot was so successful it turned into mandatory pre-deployment training for all Med-Tech’s on their way to Afghanistan. And the rest they say is history.
That is an over simplification of the history of why CTOMS came to be. But the important message that I’d like to convey is that Rick, Nathan, Ainsworth and Mark didn’t die in vain, nor did the injured receive life changing injuries in vain. There were so many lessons learned and new training and equipment implemented because of that first event, that there are countless people alive today because of their sacrifices. It is a true shame that it had to take the deaths of soldiers and a ground up initiative in order to affect change in the system, but that is the reality of a politically driven, and budget restrained bureaucracy like the Canadian Forces. In their defense, when the true requirement was revealed, the right people in power positions did step up and change the system. The novel training that occurred has been validated countless times quantified in lives saved.
So today, on the 10th anniversary of the Tarnac Farm Friendly Fire Incident, I remember my friends that we lost that night, and I thank them for their sacrifice. I don’t think there is a better way to put it than my old Pararescue motto – they gave all so “That Others May Live”.
April 17, 2012 at 09:36
Very well said and. You and your team have done an amazing job in ensuring that we as the CF are much better trained in combat medical management, from the front lines back. Your efforts are well appreciated within the medical world.
Although I was in Kandahar camp and not on Tarnack Farms, it lives on in my mind. They are not forgotten, and shall be remembered by all of us that were there at that time.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication.
Kirsten (3 PPCLI Med Tech 2002)
April 17, 2012 at 10:07
Thank you for your heroism that night Chris and for everything you and Craig have done since. You have saved many lives because of this training and set the bar for what can be done with determination and guts.
April 17, 2012 at 13:52
Its so hard to believe that it’s been 10 years. I will never forget where I was and what I doing at the time… Even though their deaths were extremely senseless I want to believe that they did not die in vain. Because of their tragic deaths and because of what you guys got off the ground 10 years ago in response to their untimely passing I know that it has saved countless lifes… both civilian and military. I have witnessed this first hand, both with TCCC and TACMED. You guys should be very proud of this …you should also be proud of the way the countless amounts of soldiers have used these skills on the battle field.. I know the four boys looking down on us today would be!
April 17, 2012 at 18:27
Chris, Craig & Jean,
You are in my thoughts today. I am extremely proud to have been a part of the start of that life fantastic course.
April 25, 2012 at 19:10
I’ll never forget my first trauma casualty in Afghanistan. The AUP Ranger rolled up to the UMS with the district police chief in the back. When we dropped the tailgate, it was like a blood waterfall spilling out of the bed of the pickup truck. The chief had been shot 8 times; in the chest, abdomen, and legs, and he had 18 inches of intestine hanging out. My buddy and I looked at each other and said ‘hey this is just like TACMED’! A month later the police chief was back on the job. These days I’m an ACP in Ontario, but the TACMED course we took before going over on ROTO 6 is still far and away the best medical training I have ever received. Congrats on all you guys have done, your work has undoubtedly saved a LOT of lives!!
May 11, 2012 at 19:16
Chris, thank you for sharing the story of the beginning, not easy to talk about sad memories. I’m sure Craig has related this to me before – but to see it in print brings the reality of the situation home once again. Thank you for your courage and foresight to see that something needed to be done – and taking the risk to ensure many other lives would not be lost due to lack of training. To you and Craig, congratulations and many many thanks.. for having the vision and making it a reality.
Laurie aka Craigs Mom
November 3, 2013 at 00:39
So long ago but I still remember that night and the day that followed