NEW YORK — Before they hit the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, West Point cadets have gotten a taste of chaos, New York City style.
More than three dozen cadets hit city streets Saturday for a double shift with the Fire Department’s emergency medical technicians, who handle everything from traffic accidents to construction crane collapses.
“This place is a proving ground,” said Benjamin Zederbaum, who runs the recently established cadet medical intensive training course at West Point. “It’s trial by fire. There’s drama here. This is a tough town.”
The ride-alongs are part of Zederbaum’s rapid-fire class, which crams about 170 hours of instruction into several weeks.
“It’s a perfect fit,” said John Peruggia, chief of the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Service Command. “We have many difficult and challenging assignments every day. We wanted to give them some practical exposure.”
Peruggia said FDNY will answer about 1.5 million calls this year. About 500,000 to 600,000 of those calls are categorized as immediately or potentially life-threatening.
Zederbaum said the exercise was intended to give cadets the necessary experience to be certified as EMTs, plus a clinical awareness of injuries they may see on the battlefield. The cadets can perform CPR and other procedures, but they’re not allowed to stick anyone with a needle.
If cadets see injuries on deployments, “at least it won’t be the first time,” said Fire Department Capt. John Wieland.
Cadet Zachary West, 18, saw trauma on his first call. He was a little rattled when he saw a man covered in blood, but pulled himself together and immediately helped, following instructions from an EMT.
It turned out the man had only a bad cut on a lip.
Last month, cadets on a similar training stint delivered a baby and performed CPR on seven people, saving two of them.
“It was intense,” said Cadet Emily, 23, who was unable to revive a 62-year-old woman who had no pulse. “When the time comes, I won’t be bogged down by fear.”