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Combat lifesaver training's just a scream for stressed New York Army National Guard Soldiers

By Sgt. J.P. Lawrence | New York National Guard | June 23, 2015

FORT DRUM, N.Y. - The medic was yelling. "What are you waiting for?" Sgt. Michael Madison bellowed. "This Soldier is bleeding out! What's taking so long?" 

Madison, a medic with the 42nd Infantry Division Headquarters Support Company, and a Hudson, New York, resident, was yelling at Soldiers during the last day of their combat lifesaver course. The course trained soldiers to give medical aid during combat. To pass, Soldiers must give aid to a mock victim as Madison yelled at them. 

"If he dies, you will have to take his daughter down the aisle, and everyone will know he won't be there for his daughter because you let him die!" Madison yelled. "Do you want that on your conscience?"

Madison had been doing these combat lifesaver classes for a long time. Over the years, he had at times seen Soldiers buckle under pressure, even crying at the stress of saving a victim's life. 

The combat lifesaver classes began in a classroom and involves a written test, but for Madison, learning the proper mindset was just as important as learning the proper skills. 

"They can do the skill," Madison said. "They just have to practice it under stress so they can do it in combat."

Madison was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 as a medic. There, he learned about the sensory overload of chaos under fire. 

"You'll want to move faster than your body can actually move," Madison said. "You'll miss a few steps on your bandage, or even something as simple as a tourniquet. 

Madison had experience with these stressful scenarios in his civilian life as a emergency first responder. This helped him learn to refocus when the world presents a frantic and scattered picture. 

"If you don't train how to slow your body down, slow down the reactions, you'll miss a vital step," Madison said. 

The important of this mindset was why Madison yelled. For Madison, it was important that Soldiers treat the training as if it were a real life and death situation, one in which the lives of both the patient and others are at risk. 

"The chopper's waiting for you!" Madison yelled. "And here you are, and you can't find your equipment. There's a company-sized element of enemy troops, and they're going to get you, your patient, your troops, and the people in the chopper if you don't hurry it up!"

At times, of course, Madison's voice grew hoarse as he yelled. He said he tends to get into the moment, to say whatever pops into his head. His yelling occasionally gave Soldiers a respite, cutting through the tension built up in the exercise. 

"Hurry it up!" Madison said at times. "I heard the mess hall's serving a great meal tonight, and you don't want to make me late!"