Story and photo by Sgt. Kissta M. Feldner, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
AL ASAD, Iraq – Clutching an ankle twice its normal size, Pfc. James Ladina writhed in pain on the white tile floor. An Iraqi medic donning a white lab coat rushed to his aid, quickly removing Ladina’s combat boot and performing a range of motion test. After assessing the damage, he applied a splint and a wrap, and recommended that Ladina take anti-inflammatory medication and apply ice to the area to decrease pain and swelling.
Known as “Tom Cruise” by the members of his class, Ladina uses this theatrical style of teaching to keep his class interested and on their toes. Originally from Belleville, Mich., he is a medic with C Company, 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division and has been tasked with instructing Iraqi Army medics in Anbar Province. He is currently working with three groups of medics, each of which he meets with twice a week.
Ladina was working with a group of about 25 medics at the 7th Iraqi Army Division compound on July 11, when he faked a fall at the beginning of the class, testing his students’ reaction time and knowledge of clinical orthopedics.
“I want them to make a split-second decision,” he said.
“I thought something was really wrong,” said Iraqi Army Pfc. Waleed Raswal Ameed, a 7th IA Div. medic. “I recommend him to be an actor.”
But this training isn’t just drama and acting. The IA medics, experienced in treating combat-related injuries, are learning the steps to treating patients in a clinical setting, because “they’re not always going to be treating traumatic injuries,” said Ladina.
During the training, Ladina covered different orthopedic injuries, from sprains to compound fractures. Although the level of experience varied among the students, they participated in the class and asked questions, some of which were answered by fellow classmates.
“The Iraqis have gone above and beyond my expectations,” Ladina said. “They show interest in class and they’re doing great.”
To complete the day’s lesson, Ameed demonstrated how to dress and treat a chest wound. With one of his comrades lying on the floor with a simulated through-and-through bullet wound to the chest, Ameed explained to the class and Ladina the proper way to check for a collapsed lung, release pressure to restore breathing, and stop the bleeding.
This “train the trainer” method demonstrates how well the medics understand what they’ve been taught and ensures that they are able to follow the steps of treatment correctly, from beginning to end. It also guarantees that they will be able to teach fellow medics these skills in the future, when U.S. troops are no longer here to advise them.
Some IA medics, like Ameed, are already going above and beyond to become experts in their field. Ameed said if he misses a lesson or is struggling to understand, he reviews with his peers or with the U.S. medics until he gets it.
“My ambition is to be a teacher to Iraqi soldiers,” he said. “I try to improve myself to impress my commander, and serve my country and the Iraqi Army.”