Robin Sage is the last phase of the Special Forces Q course. Students who have successfully completed everything up to this point are assembled into a team of 16-20 ‘SFODA’ members of varying MOS’s and placed into an unconventional warfare environment to test their planning and execution skills. Successful completion of this phase means you earned your Green Beret. Failure means likely recycle or being dropped from the course and sent to the needs of the Army.
I could probably write an entire book about my experience in Robin Sage, but let’s face it, I’m not that great of a writer. For now, you’ll just have to stick with me while I regale you with hopefully funny tales from what happened during the field test portion of the exercise. With any luck you’ll get some laughs out of it, as well as learn something from the medical situations I encountered.
We’ll begin with Infil. Some teams are lucky enough to jump in and ruck a short distance, others go in with barely any equipment and improvise. Not my team. My team played the fun game of ‘our rucks will NOT weigh more than 75lbs. Okay okay no more than 85…damn…95?....okay fine 105lbs.’ The 3 P’s of piss poor planning were in full effect.
On a stormy night sometime in late summer, our SFODA began rucking with our 105lb+ rucks with a basic plan for conducting our first link up with our Guerilla force (or G’s for short) after an approximately 8-mile route through heavy forest. Well that plan was fantastic, except our navigator got us lost, we missed our link up and had to go to the Alternate link up spot in our PACE plan. 4 more miles of hiking to go. Oh wait, just kidding, because we got lost again and missed that one too. On towards the Contingency spot, which is…..6 more miles away?!! Oh, and it’s still raining. At this point it may have been raining ocean water, because everyone who wasn’t navigating was as salty as they come. We get to what we think is our Contingency spot…12 hours and 18 miles later, only to find out that our now 3rd navigator actually has us 2 miles from where we are supposed to be, with the linkup happening in 15 minutes. Can we make the 2 miles in 15 minutes with 105lb rucks? *&$^#@ no we can’t. Onwards to our Emergency spot, thankfully only 2 miles away. Our Cadre at this point is furious. We are his last Robin Sage class before he goes back to a team, and in 3 years running the same lane we are the only team who has missed their Primary AND Alternate AND Contingency spots. Oops.
We finally get to the final linkup spot, approximately 14 hours and 20 miles later, completely exhausted, and do our initial meetings with the G’s. Not 2 minutes after the meeting concludes, one of the 18E’s on our team comes up to me and says that his skin is on fire, and asks if I’ll check him out. Upon closer inspection, this dude has literally 100’s of baby ticks on him, most of which had started burrowing into his skin. My ultimate nightmare. Thankfully I brought tweezers with me, and set to work removing them from his arms, legs, chest, back..well, you get the idea. Great start to our Robin Sage exercise…
Finally, we get led to our G camp and set about organizing our things. The 18B’s start fortifying the camp’s defenses, the 18C’s start surveying for stuff they can build or improve, the 18E’s start setting up their radios, and I start setting up my shanty/med clinic. Oh, forgot to mention, we had 4 18B’s, 4 18C’s, 4 18E’s and 3 Officers…and me. Our 18D class had 10 graduates, just enough to put 1 of us on each Robin Sage team. It was pretty awesome, if nothing else for the fact that you couldn’t go on a mission without a medic, so I got to do everything! I digress. As I’m setting up my hovel of a clinic, I am visited by the G-chief, who informs me that they have their own medic, and would like me to work with him. Cool, no problem, I expected this.
This new medic is named ‘Panther’ (All G-role players pick their own names) and Panther quickly broke role and informed me that he couldn’t stand the sight of blood, and knew exactly nothing about medicine. My ‘medic’ was not only not a medic, but couldn’t be counted on to help do cross-training. I did not expect that, but whatever, roll with the punches, right? Except not 30 minutes later, one of the senior G’s ran up to our clinic and also breaks role, saying “not part of the scenario, this is real, I have a guy get hit in the head with an axe.’ Uh oh.
Sure enough, here comes a dude holding his head being supported by two people as he stumbles over to my clinic. He had been chopping firewood, didn’t see an overhead 550 chord line above him and hit the chord with the axe handle, spinning the axe out of his hands and into his head. Oops. Blood is absolutely pouring down his face, and his shirt is already covered. I quickly put on gloves and grab some Kerlex from my aid bag. I’m thinking worse-case scenario here, and running through every possible outcome in my head. I look back to tell Panther to grab some Ace bandages and more Kerlex, only to see a look of sheer terror in his eyes as he sees the blood on this guy’s head and clothes. I watch in slow motion as Panthers face goes blank and he promptly passes out. Thankfully he passes out on the soft dirt floor, so I immediately concentrate on the bloody guy.
I make a small ball of kerlex with one end of the Kerlex roll and ask them to remove their hands from his head. I see an approximately 3-4” gash directly down the center of his head, from which there are two primary heavy bleeders. I immediately push the Kerlex onto the heavier of the two bleeders and use my free hand to place manual pressure with a finger on the second. That takes care of about 95% of the bleeding from the head. I get another G to put on gloves and hold pressure on the spots I identified, while I rig up an IV line. The IV is not to give him fluids, but to push saline onto the wound to expose how deep it goes and further assess the injury. Thankfully the wound didn't reach the skull and no brains were showing, so it wasn't a grave concern. Besides being a heavy bleeder and scaring the crap out of everyone, it could be fixed with staples. I bandaged up his head and was consulting with my captains as to our options for him when I was informed it was so early in the Robin Sage scenario that instead the Cadre would handle it, and they quickly whisked him away to a civilian hospital and got him stapled up. Thankfully I stayed completely calm during the entire episode (at least outwardly), Panther came around eventually and was uninjured, and all the G’ role players were super excited to learn emergency medicine after that!
And that was just the first 24hrs of Robin Sage. If you want to hear more, let us know in the comments!