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RISC provides each of its trainees with a comprehensive medical pack, which we expect them to carry on assignment along with their flak jackets and helmets. The pack is modeled after those worn by combat medics in the military. It contains equipment which can make the difference between life and death for an injured person in the critical moments before professional medical care can be reached. Below is a collection of photos of RISC graduates in the field.

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We ask our graduates to let us know if they find themselves in a situation where they have to use their training. Most return to the field weeks after completing the course. Below is a log of incidents where RISC training has been put to work – both in conflict zones and in everyday life.

Skills and supplies put to use in Iraq

Quickly after my return from RISC training in Turin, I was in a situation where the training came inuse. Twice, in one day.

First of all, I am fine and healthy. But while covering an offensive launched by the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, I was hit by a very small piece of shrapnel in the back of my neck. But shrapnel nonetheless. I was incredibly unlucky in one way because I was inside an armored vehicle (MRAP), with my flak and helmet on, and this piece of a bullet or bullet casing ricochet inside the cabin of the vehicle and hit me between my protective gear. It was pretty scary. It felt more like a punch or kick then being cut by anything. I was working with my colleague, Samuel Forey from Le Figaro, who helped assess the wound (it was small) and apply gauze. He had me squeeze both his hands at the same time to make sure I didn’t have nerve damage. We discussed leaving but I decided I was fine enough to stay.

About 20 minutes later, a Peshmerga was being carried to a pick-up truck with a gunshot wound to the back. Before the truck drove away, I was able to get the second item of gauze out of my RISC kit and gave it to the guy accompanying the wounded Pesh. I tried opening the plastic gauze packet myself, but my hands were still shaking, so I ended up just trowing it to the guy shouting ‘stop the bleeding’ and ‘pack the wound’. I have no idea if the Pesh guy spoke English or even could hear me, but the wounded guy he was looking after he made it to the field clinic (which was like 45 minutes away), packing gauze stuffed into the wound, and is alive. Or at least was still alive when I left the country a few days later. He was the only Peshmerga to arrive at the clinic with a packed wound. Some American medics treated him, and then me a few hours later when I went through on my way back to the base. 

The next day I went to get X-rays (as recommended by the medics) and, sure enough, I have a little souvenir of shrapnel embedded in my neck. It was very close to my spine, so I left the country as soon as I could get a flight and organize a doctor to get a second opinion.

- Photographer Andrea DiCenzo, RISC XII

First aid while embedded in Afghanistan

I was in Kunduz for Foreign Policy, embedded with the 2nd Brigade, 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) as units corralled a few remaining Taliban fighters from the edge of the city's south. One of the ANA soldiers took a bullet or perhaps even something caused by the back-blast of one of their own RPG launchers. It wasn't a big wound, and far from life threatening, but I was able, with the help of a colleague I was with, to patch up the wound before he was sent off to the army hospital a few miles away. It was a very empowering feeling, I have to say, being able to act with confidence in such a situation.

- Photojournalist Andrew Quilty, RISC X

Bandaging shrapnel wounds from mortar fire in Aleppo, Syria

Me and David McDougall had just arrived in Aleppo, Syria. It was November 2012.

We went straight to the hospital where we met an old friend of mine, a doctor. Just as we gave each other a friendly hug some friendly accidental fire hit around us. It left a hole in the ground between our legs, some shrapnel thru my camera bag and hand, as well as the leg of the doctor.

Gladly we were at the hospital where we got immediately fixed up. We carried our RISC kits, and later the gauze inside got handy when my hand had to be re-wrapped by David.

- Photographer Niklas Meltio, RISC II

Coming to the aid of a collapsed passenger on a plane to Cairo

A man on the way to the bathroom collapsed in front of my seat in the emergency row. Feeling that ‘RISC moment’, I got up and helped the two stewardesses lay him down properly, paying close attention to keeping his neck straight. The stewardesses tried to make him comfortable and to give him juice, so I checked his vitals, breathing, and verbal/physical responses.

He was cold and clammy and kept mentioning his brain, but said he wasn’t epileptic or diabetic or anything. I myself have problems with pressure on planes and have had similar experiences, so I mentioned this to him and he said that was his issue. He was better after resting on the floor for a bit, and returned to his seat.

It wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but it was an empowering moment for me personally having the knowledge to be able to support in that situation.

- Photographer Amanda Mustard, RISC III

Helping an elderly neighbor

It had been a few weeks since I returned from Afghanistan when I heard a faint cry of help coming from the street outside my home. I walked out to find my 87-year-old neighbor Richard lying at the bottom of the stairs of his porch. His head was badly gashed and there was a large lump on his forehead.

Others gathered and attempted to help him up. I remembered my RISC training and said it was better to leave him alone. While another person called 911, I grabbed my RISC kit and pulled out some gauze and told him to apply direct pressure to his wound.

I kept an eye on him until the ambulance arrived, asking Richard to wiggle his toes and checked to see if anything else hurt. He was fine otherwise. A World War II veteran who fought in the South Pacific, he said everyone was making too much fuss over his injury.

- Writer Carmen Gentile, RISC I