The cadets rush out the door and run toward an NCO, shouting in pain. They work quickly, placing a tourniquet on an arm, checking for heavy bleeding, then carry their comrade uphill.
Once behind cover, they continue to move and communicate. Bandages, gauze and muscle memory wrap wounds.
“Oh, you see blood here.” The NCO gestures with his hand, giving them clues to where blood would be if it were real in English and French. “Yes, the hole -- in his chest.”
The cadets work diligently, bandaging and dressing wounds, then treating their comrade for shock.
The pair finishes.
“Okay, next two!”
Arta Interservice Military Academy cadets worked through the motions they’ve made for the past six days of English discussion and combat care with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa service members July 23, 2014, at the AMIA in Djibouti.
Afterward, the cadets and U.S. Soldiers and Marines posed for photos. They talked and gestured toward one another, asking and replying.
While the effort to communicate and share was apparent, the genesis of the whole scene was not.
Months ago, Civil Affairs Soldiers in the area saw children playing on the dirt field outside the academy.
“There was just a bunch of kids,” said U.S. Army Specialist Rehnelt, Bravo Company, 407th Civil Affairs Battalion Team 1 civil affairs specialist, repositioning his hands on the steering wheel, during the early morning drive to AMIA. “so we pulled a soccer ball out of the back, blew it up and started a game.”
Once they started playing, the American service members and children drew a crowd.
“Kind of funny -- you’ve got [U.S. Army Specialist Andrew Paget] out there – just a big guy surrounded by a bunch of kids,” Renhelt said. “Every time they scored a goal he dropped to his knees and made a big scene out of it. So a bunch of people came to watch and laugh at us -- watch us get our butts kicked by the Djiboutian kids. And one of them was the second in command of the Arta Military Academy.”
From there, the battalion facilitated English discussion groups at the hospitality trade school in Arta and then leadership from the 407th CA BN, AMIA and Djiboutian Armed Forces worked to start a recurring discussion group.
The AMIA has an English language lab taught by a Djiboutian Armed Forces service member who attended courses at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the discussion groups, which began in March, 2014, complement that instruction.
“What the Academy wanted – in addition to language rules like past participles and sentence structure – they wanted the cadets to have the conversational piece with us,” said U.S. Army Maj. Mitchell Johnson, Bravo Company 407th CA BN commander. “In late March I started talking to the Moroccan Army advisor to the academy...from March to April we had weekly meetings … and we put together a plan. This six weeks is the beginning of the partnership between CJTF-HOA and AMIA for the next year.”
During the English discussion groups held July 23, Soldiers and Marines discussed military values. The cadets shared their thoughts on military values.
Cadet Moktar Ismael, who his fellow cadets call “Bravo,” or simply Moktar, said the discussion group has helped his English and has become closer to his U.S. comrades.
He said he prefers speaking English with Americans as opposed to English speakers from other nations. In his free time, he watches American film and listens to American music between discussion groups to improve his English. His favorites are Mel Gibson and Michael Jackson -- especially Braveheart and the Thriller album, respectively.
“We had a lot of fun,” he said. “I really enjoyed the first aid portion, especially learning how to treat bleeding, apply tourniquets and treat a sucking chest wound. It was the most important thing to learn.”
Moktar said he studies first aid at AMIA, and the six days of hands-on application complemented what he already knew.
“That definitely helped us,” Moktar said. “It helped us come together as a team and work together. We enjoyed speaking English in an interactive way. We don’t speak English often here and it’s a good opportunity.”
To help bridge the communication gap, U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Mays, Bravo Company, 407th CA BN Team 1 medic, originally from Nice, France, speaks French and English with the cadets to explain more complicated material and assist interpreters on site.
“I volunteered to deploy to Djibouti so I could be in a French-speaking country,” he said. “It feels good. I don’t get to use my French too much and it’s been a good refresher for me.”
Mays said practicing his French is not the only rewarding experience for him.
“The discussion groups and first aid class is a good way to learn about one another,” He said. “You learn what their intentions are for their career and what serving in the military means to them. When I ask them why they joined or why they are attending AMIA, it’s because they are patriotic.”
Mays facilitated the first-aid training and gave two-man teams feedback following the hands-on exercises. The medics covered material similar to a combat lifesaver course and covered the acronym M.A.R.C.H. during the first five days. Massive bleeding, airway, respirations, circulation and hypothermia.
Cadets demonstrated their proficiency on the sixth and final day. U.S. Army Cpl. Matthew Sheirmann, 2/16th Infantry Battalion medic, worked with Mays and several other medics to set up the manikin and facilitate the training.
“They did well overall,” he said, after dropping the manikin on the ground from a fireman’s carry, downhill and out-of-sight from the next rotation of cadets. “They are very good at packing wounds, pressure wounds and applying tourniquets.”
The Vincennes, Ind., native said he enjoyed his time working with the 407th and getting a chance to be off camp, working with Djiboutians.
“They’re happy we’re here,” he said. “Most say they’re here for pride and to serve their country. They don’t talk about money – it’s pride – the same reason most Americans join the military.”
From uphill, Mays yells, “Boom!”
Another team runs through the doorway, downhill toward Sheirmann’s shouts.
They find the manikin and quickly kneel beside it.
They sweep for blood. They apply the tourniquet.
Sheirmann watches and gives them clues. Once the team agrees on a carry, they run back uphill with their manikin toward Mays.
Article courtesy CJTF-HOA Public Affairs