Refugee Relief International After Action Reports

Syrian Border, Free Syrian Army, 2014

A REFUGEE RELIEF International, Inc. (RRII) team deployed to the Turkey-Syria border with the primary mission of training combat medics selected by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in advanced combat trauma and life support. It should be noted here that the FSA is the Syrian resistance faction composed of pro-democratic and pro-western fighters and political operatives. They are not jihadist.

The medics sent to the training came from all over Syria; some were from the embattled and besieged city of Homs, from Damascus, and the majority from Aleppo. All had some form of combat medical experience, their backgrounds varying from mechanics to medical students and pharmacists. All were united in their desire to be free from the Assad regime and radical Muslim fanatics.

The training that the RRII team provided consisted of life-saving, stabilization and intermediate care for battlefield trauma, to include such subjects as primary and secondary survey, triage, wound ballistics and debridement, amputation, fluid replacement, burn care, chest injuries with chest tube insertion, anesthesia, suturing, fracture management, and blast and crush injuries. A field training exercise was conducted, with students practicing chest tube insertion, suturing, anesthesia and amputation on live tissue animal models. The students demonstrated a high level of competence in the practical exercises.

Due to recent events in Syria, the management of chemical casualties was discussed, as well as identification and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. Concepts of managing a health care system in a denied environment were also taught.

Most of the twenty-eight students had not previously been acquainted, and a good deal of bonding took place among the class. RRII left a considerable amount of medical supplies and medicine with the students to take back to their zones. In spite of claims of assistance from governmental or charitable sources, the RRII team was the first training team from outside that any of the medics had seen.

The team was able to spend a short time at a Syrian hospital where we consulted on some cases. The new hospital was established within the last few months primarily to care for the wounded, and was staffed by dedicated and seemingly tireless volunteers: Syrian physicians, nurses, dentists and others. Due to the deteriorating security situation at the time, however, we were able to provide only limited medical and surgical support on completion of the advanced combat medic course.

The RRII team supervises students on the insertion of chest tubes, suturing, airway and amputation. The animals used were previously designated as refugee food sources and anesthetized. Note the line of trucks in the background waiting passage through road blocks into Syria.

Refugee Relief International, Inc. was assisted in funding by Deutsch-Syrische Verein zur Förderung der Freiheiten und Menschenrechte e.V., a charitable organization composed primarily of Syrian émigrés living in Germany and elsewhere in the European Union.

RRII paramedic Schmitzberger instructs combat medic students in starting IV therapy.
Dr. Mohler, a trauma and orthopedic surgeon, teaches chest tube placement.
This is a variety of "barrel bomb". The Assad regime fills 55 gallon drums, old hot water heaters, any large metal cylinder, with explosives, nails, screws, glass, any type of item that can wound or kill. These have been dropped into civilian areas randomly and cause terrible devastation.