The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT)


Members of C Company, 1 Mercian Fire Support Group (FSG) meeting some local children.

9 years ago this summer, I spent 6 months of my life in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, attached to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment. Local lads, some of whom I'd attended school with, I had a particular affinity with this regiment compared to the other regiments I had had the pleasure to be attached to in my 12 years as a Mechanical Engineer in the British Army. The area in which we were deployed was a particularly busy part of the province and had seen plenty of violence and British Army units rotating through over the preceding 4 years, a fact that was not lost on the company. In the ensuing 6 months after the deployment, there would be plenty of IED's, shoots, mortars, heavy machine gun fire and ambushes, and I will certainly touch on that in subsequent blogs. However, today I am going to focus on one particular incident in which I witnessed first hand, the use of the Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT).

I had been acting as a member of the company's Fire Support Group (FSG) for the latter half of the tour, who's role was to either deploy on to high ground with heavy weapons in order to support the foot patrols, or act as a Quick Reaction Force in the event that patrols were engaged by Taliban or there was a medical emergency. Our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) at this stage were to wear the two CAT's that were issued to each soldier loosely on each leg. That way, should you become involved in an IED explosion, the bleeding could be stemmed fairly rapidly. On this particular day, we were sat in our Jackal vehicles inside the Forward Operating Base (FOB) with engines running while a foot patrol deployed out into the local village. We were sat with feet on dash boards just listening to the radio chatter as the patrol returned to base when we heard the unmistakable "CRUMP" of the IED detonating.

A member of C Company 1 Mercian watches a foot patrol return from the Green Zone.

We heard the dreaded words over the radio net "CONTACT, IED, WAIT OUT!" Immediately the FSG Commander started to receive information about the location and details of the explosion as we were preparing the vehicles to drive straight to the site of the explosion. It emerged that one of the patrol had stepped out of the safe area (that had been swept by the detecting equipment) and had detonated a pressure pad IED that had been planted by the Taliban. We sped to the location of the platoon with stomachs churning and eyes wild, incessantly scanning around for secondary devices