AAR: Dark Angel Medical, Direct Action Response Training, July 2017

A car wreck doesn’t care about your gender. Severe bleeding doesn’t care about your politics. Falling from a great height disregards ideology. Injury and death can happen to any of us – do you have the medical skills to address it?

One of my goals for 2017 was to get more “other” training, and continuing my education in medical skills was one of those areas. I’ve taken a number of classes from Lone Star Medics and it’s been one of the best things I’ve done. I like to seek out other instructors because there’s great benefit in doing so. Yes, much of the material may be the same, but that’s great! Redundancy fosters learning. You might hear an old thing presented in a new way, or with additional insight. And there can simply be new things to learn. When I saw Dark Angel Medical was coming to Austin to teach their Direct Action Response Training course, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. I have heard many good things about Dark Angel, so I wanted to see what they were about and further my medical knowledge.

Location & Details

The course was held on July 15-16, 2017 at The Range at Austin, a new and rather swanky gun range and training facility. It’s only been open for a short while, and this was my first time visiting the facility. It’s quite nice. Very large, spacious. HUGE showroom, selling a number of high-end firearms (no Hi-Points here), some more obscure/exotic ones as well. Very tactically oriented (vs. field/hunting oriented). Large range area, many lanes. Well lit. Seemed well-ventilated (tho I didn’t go into the range area, I didn’t see smoke or other issues). Very modern facility. Expensive, but nice.

The training there is headed by Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts.  Jeff’s a good guy, and we know each other from some past dealings, but haven’t seen each other in a few years. I did manage to catch him the morning of day 2, and it was good to catch up. I’ve long wanted to take some classes from Jeff, but he always taught on the road and rarely in the Austin-area. But now that he’s here, I am going to try to find time to take some stuff from him one of these days.

The class was taught solo by the head of Dark Angel, Kerry “Pocket Doc” Davis. There were 22 students (21 men, 1 woman), many from Austin but others drove in from Dallas, Waco-area, and a couple people came from Florida.

The class is 100% indoors, in classroom. No shooting, no real physicality (you’ll be sitting most of the time). The facility classroom was clean, well-lit, nice big-screen TV for PowerPoint and videos. Each room should have had a whiteboard, but alas ours did not. I did think the room was a little cramped for 22 full-grown adults (the table & chair arrangement, as well as room dimensions), but it wasn’t too bad and we all managed throughout the weekend just fine.

Classes ran 8:30AM to 5:30PM, with about an hour break mid-day for lunch. Given The Range’s location in Austin (very close to Southpark Meadows), there’s a good deal of dining options for lunch within a very short drive. Or just bring your lunch (like I did) and spend time perusing the showroom floor looking at all the $3000 AR’s and 1911’s that you can’t afford. 🙂  (that said, I did get to look a little more at the SIG 320; such a tempting platform).

Class Itself

Again, this course is 100% classroom. You might consider it “death by PowerPoint”, but that’s not really bad. Kerry doesn’t just read from the slides – they are supporting material. But note, that is what the majority of what D.A.R.T. is: information. From their website:

Direct Action Response Training fills a niche between military self-aid/buddy care training and civilian EMS training and is geared towards those with little to no medical training or background. It provides the student with critical, need-to-know information, which can be utilized in a myriad of situations and stresses the ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ principle as well as our own principle of “Simplicity Under Stress”.

[…]

The course covers the following:

Physiological and Psychological reactions to environmental stress
The importance of having the proper Combat Mindset
Basic Anatomy and Physiology of life-sustaining systems
H, A, B, C’s—Hemorrhage, Airway, Breathing and Circulation
Breakdown and usage of Individual Med Kit components
Proper stowage and employment of the IMK
Hands-on application of the IMK
Basic and Advanced Airway management -treating and monitoring tension pneumothorax, sucking chest wound and flail chest
Airway adjunct device placement-Nasopharyngeal Airway
Basic First Aid and Advanced wound care
Application of Bandages and Hemostatic Agents
Application of tourniquets
Recognition and Treatment of various injuries (Gunshot, Laceration, Burn, Airway, Head, Orthopedic, Environmental)
Recognition and treatment of hypovolemic (hemorrhagic) shock
Moving and positioning victims with various injuries
Response to active shooter situation
Proper use of cover and cover vs. concealment
Casualty recovery in an Active Shooter situation
Mass casualty triage procedure
Emergency Medical Dialect/Lingo (911 protocol, cooperation with LE, Fire and EMS and First Responders)

That’s a LOT of material, and sure enough, you are drinking from the firehose. I think that’s actually a benefit of the PowerPoint slides: you are then provided with a printout/booklet of all the slides, which provides a great reference for later to help you remember and refresh yourself on what you learned in class.

All of the above information? Yup, it’s covered. And while for sure the class was full of “gun people” and held at a gun range, in no way is the class a “gun class”. It was a medical class. Kerry worked well at shaping the information towards life in general, because people tend to encounter life more often than being the victim of violent crime. Car wrecks, falling off ladders, or as much as I hate to say it but these days terrorist attacks. This is a medical class.

All of Day 1 and the first part of Day 2 are just going through the information. There’s a lot, but it’s presented well. Kerry makes the learning fun and works to help retention. For example, providing memory aids (H.A.B.C.D.E.); repeating and reviewing previously covered material as the class goes along (building); and working to provide information to more deeply understand what’s going on, but not getting so deep as to be overwhelming (no going down rabbit holes).

The second part of Day 2 then has some hands-on. Kerry demonstrates some things. The class gets up and rotates between various stations to get some hands-on with various types of equipment. Then a couple short scenarios are done to try putting everything to use.

One thing that ran through the whole class was working on the rapid application of tourniquets. Each student was given a TQ, taught how to use it as the first agenda item. Then throughout class and random times, Kerry would yell out “right arm” or “left leg” and we would have to apply the TQ to that body part, correctly, and as quickly as possible.

My Take-Home

Bottom line: I’m overall happy with the course. I am happy to have spent my weekend and my money taking this course. Yes, a lot of the material was things I already knew, but I enjoy that because again, redundancy fosters learning. To hear some of the same things presented in a different way? It helped to provide different perspective, but also continue to drive it home without being the same old thing again and again.

I do wish there was more hands-on, as the act of doing is a great reinforcer. Tell us about some skill, show us, have us do it, observe and provide feedback, etc.. Given some of the constraints of the class (so much material to cover and only so much time, student-teacher ratio, the sheer amount of gear that would be required, etc.), I can understand why there wasn’t as much hands-on. And again, some things were done to try to address this, such as repetition, review, quizes – these can help; think of it like visualization and how the brain can’t really tell between you visualizing the thing and actually doing the thing. So it’s still some repetitions, still some reinforcement. But it only goes so far; e.g. carries were presented in the slides, but just discussed – it would have been welcome to actually do the carries.

That said, the constant work with TQ’s I thought was a fair way of working through class on that important skill. If there was time, it’d have been good to do individual checks and feedback on each student’s application. Why? Because I did see people not applying them well. They were more concerned with “making time”, or because of stuff in their pockets might apply the TQ just above the knee instead of “high and tight”. Reps are good, but when people are learning a skill they should get some direct feedback on their application of that skill.

I found this class quite complementary to other training I’ve taken. Much of the same mindset and approach, tho of course each instructor is different. I found some new things, and my mind changed on a few topics as well (I’ll write about that later). And since I know people will ask, what I will say is take all the training you can from all the good trainers you can find. No one has the monopoly on Truth. The more information you can gather, the more exposure you can have, the better. Plus with medical training, it changes rapidly. Given time, budget, and life constraints, consider taking at least 1 course every 1-2 years to keep up with the latest advances and keep your skills and knowledge fresh, and rotate with whom you take the course to maximize your exposure.

I think that was a big help for me. This is not my first such class, and because of the repeated exposure I feel I know the information better, stronger. I feel a greater confidence because of the redundancy.

Kerry came across as knowledgable, passionate, and with a great desire to help people. It was my first time meeting him, and I got to talk with him one-on-one during lunch on Day 1. He seems a solid man, doing good work.

Medical training is important. I know many of my readers are people who carry a gun because they understand the importance of preservation of life. Well, the simple reality is you’re more likely to need medical skills than a gun. I look at my own life and the times I’ve called upon my medical skills vs. the times I’ve called upon a gun. No question that I’ve used my medical skills and knowledge more.

It may not be as fun as throwing thousands of rounds downrange during a carbine course, but there’s also not much that’s going to be as truly useful in your daily life as medical training.

Get some.

One thought on “AAR: Dark Angel Medical, Direct Action Response Training, July 2017

  1. Pingback: KR Training August 2017 newsletter – Notes from KR

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