Knowledge: “Acts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.” (Oxford Dictionary)
As I think about the Friendly Fire incident at Tarnak Farms in Afghanistan 10 years ago, the question that keeps coming back to me is the following: If I had more training and knowledge of treating combat injuries, would my reactions have been different?
During our pre-deployment training, we focused mainly on our fighting skills and very little on our medical skills. My goal was to be able to survive in an infantry platoon without endangering my fellow soldiers or myself. I was very fortunate to be with a group of guys who “showed me the ropes” and guided me through the tough learning curve. I was mentally ready to deploy as a medic with an infantry unit, but what would I do when faced with trauma? We were 3 medics in this company and we discussed all sorts of situations and how we would deal with them, but our knowledge was not sufficiently developed for the mission. We could have gained this knowledge through proper training, but it wasn’t available at that time. Our training was based on a civilian model of casualty treatment.
The Canadian Forces has since then applied the Tactical Combat Casualty Care principles based on the US model, and developed it into a Canadian model. This training is given to all members who are deploying into a combat environment. Medics receive an additional two-week intensive course that prepares them for the work that they will have to do during their mission. This course gives them the practical and theoretical knowledge to treat and to maintain life in an intense tactical environment.
When I think back on the Friendly Fire incident, I know that we did as well as we could have with the knowledge that we had at the time. However, medics these days are much better prepared as their knowledge base has increased and so has their training. Knowledge is power!