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Marines, sailors train with pigs to save buddies in combat

August 10, 2009 |  7:39 am

Marine In an avocado grove in Valley Center in northeastern San Diego County, Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton are learning techniques to save battlefield casualties.

After three days of on-base lectures and simulations using mannequins and computers, the Marines and sailors are practicing on live pigs, who are cut with scalpels and then shot to provide a realistic version of the wounds that troops might suffer in Iraq or Afghanistan.

It's part of a $1-million contract between the Marines and a company based in Washington state.

"This is the heat, this is the money," one of the instructors barked as troops looked at the heavily sedated animals. "Next time, this might be the buddy on your left or your right."

Animal-rights groups and some members of Congress oppose the use of pigs. But the military says the training is invaluable. The pig carcasses are sent to a rendering plant.

Navy corpsman Joseph Gagucas said he wished he had the so-called live tissue training before he went to Iraq for the battle of Fallouja in 2004.

"You can see all the slide shows and movies you want," he said, "but to actually see blood squirting out of a living body is totally different."

Read the full story here.

-- Tony Perry in Valley Center

Photo: A Marine practices first aid on a mannequin. Credit. U.S. Marine Corps.