I was very privileged to be able to attend the inaugural Lone Star Medics Field and Tactical Medicine Conference in Dallas with my wife Stacey this past weekend. As a PDN contributor myself, I have been following Caleb Causey and his work for the past year or so and was very excited to signup for the conference as soon as it was announced. The lineup of instructors and the content was impressive from the get go and the experience did not disappoint. I plan to be an annual attendee and highly recommend not only the conference itself, but every instructor present. I may go broke with all of the new medical/survival classes I have added to my “want to” list. Below is a short review of each class I attended.
The Patriot Nurse: This one was easily my wife’s favorite class. Rachel presented her material very well and was intriguing from the get go. She has an impressive resume’ as a nurse and has been to some very non-permissive environments in the undeveloped world where she encountered disease first hand. It is very clear that she is extremely passionate about her subject matter. Her form of “edu-tainment” as she calls it, kept the audience engaged and really helped her get the most out of the 2 hour block. The class centered on medical considerations to help you prepare for a worst case scenario that may result from something as common as a natural disaster where access to critical infrastructure such as clean water, food storage, and most importantly, doctors, is limited or non-existent. She discussed the “big 3” most common killers in these situations: respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, and wound care and outlined ways that one can prevent, adapt, and overcome in these situations. Her advice on best practices and basic medical care using what you have available to you was very intuitive and has applications beyond just a survivalist scenario and would work as a way to supplement everyday life even in an area where medical care is plentiful. My wife walked away with some solid notes and plans to use the information she received in our home as part of our everyday life. The Patriot Nurse is definitely close to the top of my “want to” list of trainers and I highly recommend that you check her out and get to a class. On a side note, Rachel is also a very cool person to talk to. She was easily the most conversational and engaging instructor at the course and spent a lot of time walking around getting to know the people at the conference.
Dark Angel Medical: This was the course I was most anticipating when I signed up to attend the conference. Kerry Davis has made quite a name for himself in the shooting community and I have always been just one weekend off from making my schedule work to get to one of his classes in DFW. His presentation on the proper understanding and application of tourniquets was just as awesome as I thought it would be. He went to great lengths busting the myths about TQ’s and the stigma that has unfairly surrounded their use in years past with a lot of supporting primary source information. I was already a believer before I went to the class just based on my experience in the military but I could tell that there were some misinformed people in the audience who made the turn as a result of Kerry’s presentation. After removing the stigma, he explained in detail the proper context for the use of a TQ and gave us the opportunity to practice proper application on each other. His presentation abilities and audience engagement were superb. I plan to host Dark Angel for a 2 day class in the 2015 training year and I very much look forward to participating in the full spectrum of what they have to offer.
Octavio Cezares: This was a great follow on for Dark Angel’s class as Octavio covered the different types of hemostatic agents, the pros and cons associated with each, and how to use them properly. The presentation itself was basically a run down of the evolution of hemostatic agents and then a description of the different types available on the market. After the basic rundown, we got the chance to learn how to pack wounds with combat gauze using some pretty nice medical dummies. A lot of people have the misconception that hemostatic agents are just bandages and don’t understand that they need to be packed into a wound in order to have the desired effect. This class showed the student what right looks like and gave plenty of opportunity to practice using realistic wounds. It was a solid block of instruction and I was glad to get the refresher on how to properly care for a traumatic bleeding injury once a TQ is applied. Octavio has clearly been around the EMT/Trauma community for a long time and his knowledge about the products was exceptional and very informative.
RSKTKR Consulting: This was a fun class taught by Mongo (PJ Packard), a firefighter/EMS guy, that covered how to do basic patient assessment. I was expecting something that was your standard “are you ok?”, check for breathing/pulse type thing but this was not that class. Mongo made it very interesting by teaching basic problem solving/ communication skills that can allow you to begin assessing the situation and your patient even at a distance before you have to go hands on. It centered around using basic conversation and movement to make sure that “breath is moving in and out and blood is going round and round”. It was a very interactive and entertaining block of instruction that didn’t involve one single power point slide or talking point. Mongo introduced the basic concept, and then put us all on the spot with scenario training that started on the basic level and ended with some real curve balls that forced us all to think on our feet. What I liked most about this class was that it demonstrated how critical thinking skills and adaptation to your environment is far more important than some cookie-cutter, Red Cross style “assessment” checklist. Mongo definitely is all about taking you out of your comfort zone and forcing you to interact with people. After all, you have to be able to interact on a basic human level before you can ever hope to be effective by going hands on, especially with a total stranger. I was very impressed by the style of teaching and the new way of approaching what can honestly be a boring topic if you’ve ever taken the “mandatory” first aid type of class.
The Skills Practice: I liked what the goal of this portion of the seminar was but I don’t think that it flowed very well. That is honestly the only negative feedback I have as an “improve” bullet point for next year (except maybe the sandwiches.. this is Texas.. we need BBQ). All of the instructors kind of haphazardly formed a “round robin” circuit training type of thing where you could practice what you learned during the day. The problem is that it just wasn’t that organized. I think if there were specific, pre-designated stations that you could go to based on what you needed to practice, that would have been more effective than just starting you in one corner and rotating every 5-8 minutes. Some of the attendees hadn’t been to the class that outlined the skill they were supposed to practice and so the instructors kind of did a crash course on different things and it quickly became a little chaotic. The bleeding mannequin was a cool surprise but only a few people got to train on that guy. Next year I would say stick with the idea, but make it more deliberate so that people will be more likely to jump in as opposed to moseying towards the bar which is what really began to happen. Solid idea, poor execution; but that’s what first runs are for! I have no doubt that next year will be ten times better.
The “Dehydration” social: Definitely keep the beer social. It was very cool to go around and get to talk to all of the instructors off line. I had the opportunity to exchange lots of business cards and just get to know the people behind the curriculum, which was very cool. I can say with certainty that this portion of the day made it very clear how passionate each instructor is about what they do and how much they care about spreading their knowledge. It really is a unique set of individuals as compared to others I have met on the shooting side of the industry where ego and bravado tend to rule the day. These guys and gals really care about helping people and that quality shined through during the social hour. I was also impressed with the raffle prizes, even though I didn’t get a ticket (boo on me for not participating more). I am sure there will be even more cool SWAG for next year.
The People’s Dentist: Dr. Sherman House is easily the coolest dentist I have ever met besides my grandfather. I can remember always being told how important it was to brush my teeth and floss growing up, but this presentation made it real. I had no idea how many ways you could die because of poor dental hygiene. This class gave a good overview of what teeth are composed of and how they are interconnected with the rest of your system. Aside from the horrific pictorial of what Dr. House has encountered in his practice, it was very interesting to see what just a baseline of preventative care can save you from and how easy it really is to care for your teeth even in an austere environment. My only suggestion for next year is to hand out a free toothbrush and tube of toothpaste so that everyone can immediately take care of business after the presentation. I felt like my mouth was a sewer for pretty much the rest of the day, and that shows how great of a class it really was. Dr. Sherman also used a blue gun with a mounted laser sight since he forgot his laser-pointer, which was funny to see. I’m sure that one will make the rounds on social media.
The Human Path: If I’m honest, this was probably the class I was really the least “excited” about because I have always assumed that herbalism is hippie/witch doctor stuff that usually encourages new age bull crap. However, Sam Coffman is hardly the stereotypical herbalist. He is a former Green Beret and doesn’t look like someone you want to mess with. His class gave a very practical and realistic approach to using what nature gives you to make medicine and supplement healing. He didn’t come across as a “you must do this or you will kill the planet” type of guy and everything he presented was based on empirical evidence and his own personal experience as opposed to hippie voodoo. The coolest part of this class was when he took us around the hotel and showed us different plants (what I would typically call weeds) that can be used for different remedies even in an urban environment. It was very interesting to say the least and even though herbalism is still honestly a little bit outside of my wheelhouse, I plan to take Sam’s advice and get some field guides to throw in my kit just to know what not to eat in my area in case I am ever in that situation.
Lonestar Medics: Caleb basically combined his class with a couple of other instructors in order to give us the opportunity to do some more hands on stuff with the mannequins and each other instead of just sitting in a lecture. We got to learn and practice some drag and carry techniques that could be utilized to move a casualty to cover in the event that you need to move them to a more secure area before you can begin treating their injuries. My wife had a good time with this portion because it showed her some ways that even a small framed female can lift a guy my size or larger by properly using leverage or even something as simple as a rifle sling. I really liked how Caleb emphasized the hands on method of learning. He isn’t going to bore you to death with lecture. I could tell that he really wants you to get in there and get after it instead of just learning the concepts. I would really like to get to one of his classes and get to work through these techniques under pressure and I’m sure I will since he isn’t too far from me. He is an a very talented and engaging instructor for sure, and I would love to see him teaching in a field environment.
Team Rubicon: Brian Brown has been in some challenging situations both locally and around the world as a disaster relief volunteer. I had heard of Team Rubicon before, but I had no idea how many local and worldwide disasters they actually responded to or what the scope of the work they do consisted of. It is a very cool organization to say the least and I like how they focus on keeping veterans in the fight and giving them opportunities to continue to serve. Seeing all of Brian’s survival kit was like crack to my inner gear nerd and will no doubt help me in building my Christmas list for next year. That being said, he was very clear about what each piece of gear was for and didn’t own anything that he hadn’t used and abused in his disaster response capacity. It would be easy to accumulate a garage full of survival crap that you have no use for if you don’t know what you really need and why you need it. Brian’s practical advice on how to build a bugout bag was very solid. I will consider myself remiss if I don’t someday take the time to get involved with a group like Team Rubicon, and I really do applaud guys like Brian for all of their sacrifice for people experiencing their darkest hours. People who call themselves “prepared” but haven’t spent time talking to guys like this, who have dealt with the after math of the SHTF situation, are really fooling themselves. If I have a question about how to do it right, I’m asking a guy like Brian before I spend the money on whatever piece of gear is being marketed to me.
Overall Synopsis: This conference was well worth every penny and I look forward to attending the next one. This is a great introductory training opportunity for the interested suburbanite all the way to the avid survivalist. I applaud Caleb and his team for the hard work they did in putting this team of instructors from all over the country together, and I am really looking forward to seeing all of these guys again as I continue to grow with this industry. This is seriously the most inspiring group of individuals I have met on this side of the military, and I believe that the training industry will get better and better as more trainers like these ones emerge with the common goal: helping people/saving lives.