The U.S. Army has been trying to improve first aid medical response of soldiers in the field, and has developed the latest Individual First Aid Kit, or IFAK, to meet the unique needs that presented themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the IFAK is bulky and gets in the way of other equipment, so developers at Natick Soldier Systems Center have completely redesigned the pack to store it in the small of the back while making it easily accessible from either side by the soldier injured or another trying to help him.
When I was on active duty, the soldier carried a compress battle dressing, and maybe an muslin bandage. It was light, and didn’t take up a lot of space. But unless a medic or combat lifesaver got to you in a real hurry, you could easily bleed out. Further, while one dressing would suffice for one wound, the problem is, in an environment with a lot of IEDs and mines, you rarely have just one wound.
Probably the biggest change in first aid since my day is the increased emphasis on tourniquets. In the old days, soldiers were taught to apply a field dressing first. If that failed to staunch the blood loss, they would then apply a pressure dressing over the field dressing. Only then, if that failed to stem the flow, were they to apply a tourniquet.
Today, with the realization that a tourniquet won’t result in the loss of a limb if treated within an hour or even two, the soldier is taught to proceed directly to the tourniquet in the event of a significant injury to a limb. Time is saved, and less blood is lost, further improving the chances of survival and recovery.
Yes, the new kit is bulkier and heavier than back in my day. But that’s a very small price to pay for the ability to save soldiers.