Afghanistan — The first line of medical support in Helmand

Lance Cor­po­ral Michael ‘Doc’ McLough­lin is the first line of med­ical sup­port for the sol­diers of C Squadron, Roy­al Dra­goon Guards, who are cur­rent­ly oper­at­ing as a ground-hold­ing infantry unit in Afghanistan.

Lance Cor­po­ral McLough­lin cleans a cut on a local boy’s hand with the water from his Camel­Bak drink­ing sys­tem
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Lance Cor­po­ral McLough­lin is part of the Roy­al Army Med­ical Corps. He is cur­rent­ly attached to the Roy­al Dra­goon Guards, serv­ing on the front line in the south­ern dis­trict of Nad ‘Ali.

The patrol base in which they live is some two kilo­me­tres from any oth­er ISAF loca­tions. It reg­u­lar­ly comes under fire from insur­gents, as do the sol­diers who patrol the sur­round­ing area to pro­vide pro­tec­tion and secu­ri­ty for the local vil­lagers.

LCpl McLough­lin said:

“As a medic with­in the infantry, I’m an infantry sol­dier when I’m out on the ground but I car­ry a lot of med­ical equip­ment with me in case my skills are need­ed.

“So I’m kind of dual-trad­ed in a way. I do their job, but I also do a trade of my own.”

LCpl McLough­lin spends most of his time out on patrol. It is his job to pro­vide the imme­di­ate life-sav­ing first aid to sol­diers if the worst should hap­pen.

This can include apply­ing tourni­quets and field dress­ings and admin­is­ter­ing flu­ids and pain relief until the Med­ical Emer­gency Response Team are able to extract the casu­al­ty by heli­copter.

Lance Cor­po­ral Michael McLough­lin
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Each of the sol­diers he serves along­side also has basic med­ical train­ing but his spe­cial­ist knowl­edge and equip­ment pro­vide cru­cial extra sup­port.

Inside the patrol base, he is the go-to guy for rou­tine med­ical prob­lems. He said:

“The lads do come to me a lot and ask for basics such as sun­screen or ask me to look at their feet, just lit­tle things. I’m also there if peo­ple need to talk things through.”

In addi­tion to work­ing with British forces, LCpl McLough­lin now spends some of his time teach­ing the basics of first aid to the Afghan Nation­al Police who are attached to the patrol base.

This is part of ISAF’s increas­ing role to part­ner with the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces as well as men­tor­ing them. It’s a cru­cial job as he’s prepar­ing Afghan forces to even­tu­al­ly pro­vide the secu­ri­ty for their own coun­try.

LCpl McLough­lin said:

“Every per­son gets skills fade so we teach the Afghan Nation­al Police to refresh their skills — every­thing from putting on a tourni­quet to assem­bling a stretch­er.

“Any­thing that will allow them to help them­selves if ISAF isn’t there. They now have the skills to save lives.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK