The Role of the Combat Lifesaver

Topic Progress:

TASK: Tactically manage a simulated casualty.
CONDITIONS: Given a written situation concerning tactical combat casualty care and possible responses.
STANDARDS: Select the correct response based upon instruction given in lesson.
REFERENCE: Army’s Combat Lifesaver Course: Student Self-Study (PDF)


The Army battle doctrine was developed for a mobile and widely dispersed battlefield. The doctrine recognizes that battlefield constraints will limit the ability of trained medical personnel, including combat medics (Health Care Specialist, MOS 68W), to provide immediate, far-forward care. Therefore, a plan was developed to provide additional care to injured combat soldiers. The combat lifesaver is part of that plan.


a. The combat lifesaver is a bridge between the self-aid/buddy-aid (first aid) training given all soldiers during basic training and the medical training given to the combat medic. The combat lifesaver is a non-medical soldier who provides lifesaving measures as a secondary mission as his primary (combat) mission allows. The combat lifesaver may also assist the combat medic in providing care and preparing casualties for evacuation when the combat lifesaver has no combat duties to perform.

b. Normally, one member of each squad, crew, or equivalent-sized unit will be trained as a combat lifesaver.

c. A major advantage of the combat lifesaver is that he will probably be nearby if a member of his squad or crew is injured. It may take a
combat medic several minutes or longer to reach the casualty, especially if there are several other casualties and/or the medic is at another location. The combat lifesaver is trained to provide immediate care that can save a casualty’s life, such as stopping severe bleeding and performing needle chest decompression for a casualty with tension pneumothorax.


a. The combat lifesaver carries a small aid bag (called a medical equipment set or MES) containing supplies for controlling bleeding, relieving tension pneumothorax, and performing other procedures. A listing of the supplies found in the aid bag at the time this subcourse was developed is given in Appendix A of the Army’s Combat Lifesaver Course: Student Self-Study (PDF) available by clicking here. For current information, check the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) listing at on the Internet under DOD Unit Assemblages.

b. Some items must be replaced when their expiration date nears. Usually, the combat lifesaver’s unit will perform the needed stock rotation. If the combat lifesaver maintains his own bag, he must replenish his supplies in accordance with his unit’s standing operating procedure (SOP).

c. During combat, the combat lifesaver will need to be resupplied rapidly as his supplies can be quickly depleted. The combat lifesaver can obtain additional supplies from combat medics, from battalion aid stations or other nearby medical treatment facilities, and from ambulances evacuating casualties.