A patrol from the 1st Cavalry Division is held up at an intersection blocked by a wrecked car when a roadside bomb goes off, throwing civilians to the ground. Medics rush to treat the wounded while gunners engage insurgents. One injured civilian squirts blood from a severed limb. Another clutches his intestines spilling from a belly wound.It's just another day at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana. The blood and bombs are Hollywood special effects, the civilians are actors and the insurgents are contractors. But the stress and horror in the medics' eyes are real."The battlefield effects give you the look, feel and smell of combat," says JRTC Col. Wayne Detwiler. "Though [the medics] are very well trained, they might have never seen trauma. You've got to get them over that."One male medic applies a tourniquet to the simulated severed limb (the actor is a Vietnam vet amputee) then moves on to the gut wound. Female Spec. Marin Van Camp follows up behind him with a team, lifting the injured onto stretchers then loading them into a Humvee ambulance. She yells at her team to work faster. Her eyes are wide and her skin flush.With the casualties all secured, the patrol moves out, speeding to a nearby landing zone. Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters flare in to evacuate the wounded.Van Camp takes a breather. "As long as you know you're going to see casualties ... as long as you're prepared, it's easy."She's lying. And soon after the choppers have disappeared over the horizon, the soldiers mount up and continue their patrol. Van Camp's work isn't finished.JRTC Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Pelletera explains all the blood and guts. "You can replicate an amputee by having a guy hold his leg up, but the effect lasts only so long," he says. "As a medic, you do so much practice, it feels like it's not real."Not so at JRTC. "Here we replicate live battlefield trauma."Read more on the front page of today's The Washington Times. Go to Flickr for pics. And check out my graphic novel WAR FIX for scenes of real battlefield gore.--David Axe
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