IDF (Zahal) paramedics have a tremendous amount of responsibility. They protect Israel in combat while treating the wounded on the battlefield. After a year and two months of training, the IDF (Zahal)’s newest paramedics completed their final exercise. Now they’re prepared to face any challenge.
In the darkness of night, in an abandoned building, you can make out the silhouettes of soldiers preparing to carry out a carefully planned mission. “My soldiers have spent a year and two months mastering combat techniques and learning how to save lives on the battlefield,” said Lieutenant Guy Levi, an IDF (Zahal) paramedic course commander, moments before embarking on the final exercise with his soldiers.
The paramedics divide into three teams, each consisting of several paramedics. Their mission: to stop a group of terrorists while providing emergency medical care on site. Throughout the year, the soldiers learned how to treat patients in extreme conditions, and this ability will now be put to the test.
Preparing for urban combat
Members of the first team are completely silent as they march toward a building. They quietly enter the building with heavy equipment and clear the rooms one by one, looking for a terrorist suspect. Soldiers have just begun inspecting the first floor when gun shots break the silence. They immediately call in a second team of soldiers, who act as reinforcements. During the crossfire, a terrorist is neutralized but a soldier is left wounded. The soldiers simulate cries of pain to make the exercise as realistic as possible.
Just at that moment, the IDF (Zahal) paramedics go into action. “The paramedics are trained combat soldiers, but are primarily considered doctors on the battlefield,” said Lt. Levi. “Aside from declaring death, they are qualified to do everything a doctor does, and they even use the same methods to save lives.”
Double training: medicine and combat
Lieutenant Guy Levi was working on a degree in psychology and intended to serve in a non-combat position, but his plans changed when he realized that the IDF (Zahal) could help him combine his two passions: defending Israel and helping those in need of care. After finishing his training as an IDF (Zahal) paramedic, he served in the Paratroopers Brigade and then became a medical officer in the Judea and Samaria region. The expertise he gained throughout his service provided him with the skills to lead the future paramedics of the IDF (Zahal).
Treating the wounded on site
In the exercise, the soldiers bring the injured soldier and the terrorist, who is severely injured, into a secure room. “Although the terrorist opened fire, from a strategic point of view we prefer to arrest him alive, because he can supply information that may help us prevent future attacks. Moreover, in the IDF (Zahal) paramedic course we emphasize that it is every soldier’s duty to provide care for anyone in need, regardless of religion, skin color or nationality,” said Lt. Guy Levi, recalling the medical care that he and his soldiers provided both for Israelis and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.
Tension rises as terrorists located in a building across the street open fire. The third team of soldiers is alerted to provide reinforcements and evacuate the wounded, but it will arrive only an hour later. Until then, the soldiers are forced to fend for themselves.
The paramedics have to treat five wounded patients in a makeshift hospital on-scene. Respiratory assistance, infusions and emergency bandages are provided immediately. The equipment used is suitable for dangerous terrain in order to provide optimal care during what doctors refer to as “the golden hour”, 60 critical minutes after the injury. The IDF (Zahal) was the first military in the world to equip its paramedics with dried plasma. When mixed with water, the medical substance can stop hemorrhaging, the most common cause for potentially survivable deaths on the battlefield. Morphine lollipops are also used instead of injections in order to reduce pain caused by injuries.
Bringing in the reinforcements
In order to conceal the arrival of the third team, the soldiers fill the area with smoke. Violent exchanges are simulated as soldiers from the third team rush into the building to evacuate the wounded and lend a hand with the fighting.
At the end of the day, the exercise proves to be a great success. Many terrorists are neutralized and the few soldiers that were injured receive all of the necessary care on site. “Before the end of the course and the final exercise, I worried that my soldiers might not yet be ready to join the combat units. But after what I saw tonight, how they cared for the wounded and their level of combat, I feel reassured. I am extremely proud of them,” adds Lt. Levi with a smile that reflects his feeling of accomplishment.
Today, the paramedics will receive a certificate of completion and take the Hippocratic Oath. In few days time, they will join their combat units, and go on to proudly protect Israel and care for their fellow soldiers.