I showed my high school students how to use my Army-issued tourniquet last week in case there is a shooting at our school. I was motivated to do so by the Tactical Casualty Combat Care training I recently received as an Army Reservist.
As I sat there in the training absorbing the key lessons we have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan regarding treating preventable battlefield deaths, I couldn’t help but think that I was more likely to use the life-saving skills I was learning in the classroom than I was on the battlefield. So I brought my Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) to school, and I will continue to take it there every day until I think the threat posed by school shootings is substantially reduced.
Pause for a moment and digest what I just stated. I have two jobs, Army officer and teacher— and I consider the latter to be the more dangerous of the two.
Some might think this is an overreaction to the threat posed by school shootings. Some will undoubtedly say that I should not be scaring my students by teaching them how to prevent hemorrhagic deaths. I had the same thoughts—and I paused to consider if I should really talk about tourniquets with my students. Am I being a paranoid soldier, I thought, am I imagining threats and scaring these kids needlessly? As I deliberated, word came in that another school shooting had just occurred in North Carolina, so I went ahead with the training.
Unfortunately, it seems that I’m not alone in my thinking that this sort of training is necessary. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently facilitating the development of a mass casualty training scheme for high schools nationwide. In the grant announcement for the project DHS wrote:
Similar to how students learn health education and driver’s education, they must learn proper bleeding control techniques using commonly available materials; including how to use their hands, dressings, and tourniquets...Victims can quickly die from uncontrolled bleeding within five to 10 minutes; however, anyone at the scene can act as an immediate responder and save lives if they know what to do.
Something is broken in the United States of America. I should be spending my time planning American history and government lessons instead of planning how I am going to barricade my room and keep my students alive in the event of a shooting. I should be concerned about getting my students out of the building when the fire alarm goes off instead of worrying if the alarm is a shooter’s tactic to lure targets into the hallway. And I certainly should not feel the need to teach my students how to treat gunshot wounds.
The fact that we have not solved this issue proves that our political system needs serious work. The vast majority of Americans are in favor of new gun-control measures, yet we are unable to pass common sense solutions to this problem. I say this as an owner of an AR-15 and multiple other firearms. I say this as a firm supporter of the Second Amendment.
Yet, despite my support for the right to bear arms, I would give up my AR-15 in a heartbeat if doing so would keep my students safe. But easy access to assault rifles is not the only cause of the problem. Across the country, there is an absolute epidemic of depression and anxiety in young people that is fueling this school violence, and treating these conditions is undoubtedly an important part of a solution to this issue.
Whatever the solutions to this problem are, they do exist. The vast majority of the advanced industrialized world does not have this problem. It’s time to fix it. But it appears that we are incapable of doing so. This, in my opinion, is a direct result of a two-party system that is fueled and funded by special interests and rules that allow unlimited campaign contributions from powerful lobbies.
We are seemingly incapable of compromise. We can’t even do it for the children.
Capt. Bryan Baker throws down the history at BASIS Goodyear High School. He is also an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. His previous articles have been featured in Small Wars Journal, Task & Purpose, and E-International Relations, and he runs a podcast at KeepingTheRepublic.org. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone; they do not reflect the positions of any organization with which the author is affiliated.