Mississippi State Guard prepares for the worst

Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Sgt. Hunter Dennis performs a patient assessment on Cpl. Brandon Howard who plays the victim in a demonstration. Guardsmen participated in a Tactical Combat Medic course with the Mississippi State Guard Saturday at the Mississippi National Guard Armory, near Key Field in Meridian. 

Just outside the Mississippi National Guard Armory, near Key Field on 65th Avenue South in Meridian, a group gathered around a man on the ground.

Their instructor poured fake blood, made of corn syrup, and positioned a fake hand, the kind that looks like a Halloween decoration, next to the man.  

While the scene may sound like the set of a horror film, Saturday's class, a Tactical Combat Medic course with the Mississippi State Guard, had a serious purpose: learning how to treat people who've been hurt in a mass shooting. 

The instructor, Warrant Officer One Brandon Roberts, gave the signal and Sgt. Hunter Dennis moved forward to treat Cpl. Brandon Howard.

"Left chest, sucking sounds," Roberts said to Dennis. "Does (that other wound) look like it's bleeding a lot? If not, you can ignore it for now."

For Dennis, the class served to update him on the different types of treatment since he'd left his service with the Army and, with the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas in mind, he said these were valuable skills to have. 

"Vegas just happened, and we've heard the stories of veterans going in and applying tourniquets and other treatments," Dennis said. "They learned all that (while serving). Being able to rapidly access and care for victims saves lives. Not just elsewhere, but in the civilian world too."

Law enforcement officers have used these skills when saving hurricane victims, Dennis said, like when someone got a puncture wound from a fallen tree or was stuck under a filing cabinet.

"It's important to learn this skill set, because anything can happen," Dennis said. 

Roberts, to keep the class on guard, suddenly called out, "Everyone's been shot in the right leg. Apply your tourniquet!"

The class snapped into action, fishing their supplies out of their kits. 

The Battalion Commander, Maj. Stephan Saint, didn't have his tourniquet because he'd used this exact training not too long ago.

Mississippi State Guard prepares for the worst

Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Warrant Officer One Brandon Roberts, left, instructs Capt. James Mark Matthews on packing a wound Saturday as guardsmen train at the Mississippi National Guard Armory, near Key Field on 65th Avenue South.

"I was coming in on the Interstate," Saint, from Huntsville, Alabama, said. "And this guy had flipped his car so I had to use my tourniquet on his arm."

All volunteers

Members of the Mississippi State Guard, all volunteers, meet on a monthly basis to train. Some are firefighters, former service members and professors of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University. If activated, they will be paid for their service. The Mississippi State Guard has an equal constitutional basis as the Mississippi Air National Guard and the Mississippi Army National Guard, as noted on its website.

Emily Shirley, with only three months at the Guard, doesn't have her uniform yet. She and her classmates took turns 'packing a wound,' or stuffing specially-treated gauze into a fake "wound" shaped like a Kleenex box that Roberts pumped fake blood into to simulate bleeding. The group compared their bright red fingers, sticky with corn syrup, after they packed the wound. 

"My dad got me into it," said Shirley, who'd been in a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program befoe she got involeved with The Guard. "We've been learning a lot of new stuff, useful stuff."

Her instructor, Roberts, has been with the Guard for three years and also stressed the importance of the training.

"This class is designed for an active shooter situtation," Roberts said. "And that can happen anywhere, even when you're at the mall with your family."

If Guard members were present at a shooting, they could respond more quickly, especially since other first responders will be delayed until law enforcement cleared the scene, Roberts said.

Mississippi State Guard prepares for the worst

Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Sgt. Hunter Dennis performs a patient assessment on Cpl. Brandon Howard who plays the victim in a demonstration. Guardsmen participated in a Tactical Combat Medic course with the Mississippi State Guard Saturday at the Mississippi National Guard Armory, near Key Field.

"They may be the only immediate help for those victims," Roberts said. 

Roberts said the class would also focus on assessing and treating wounds, such as 'sucking chest' wounds and arterial wounds, as well as use of the tourniquet. Part two of the class, planned for Sunday, would address moving wounded patients. 

"They love it... Everyone is going for the same goal," Roberts said about their progress. "But there are some complaints about the red fingers."

Guard commanders actively recruit volunteers and encourage anyone interested in joining to visit the website at msstateguard.us.

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