In a combat situation, the medic is not the first line of response. Each member of a unit is trained on how to save their lives and the lives of the people around them.

During a Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) scenario, the first step is Care Under Fire. During this stage, the number one treatment of a casualty is fire superiority: clearing the immediate area of the hostile threat thereby allowing the wounded to be evacuated to receive comprehensive medical care.

Operators wounded while under fire are expected to keep themselves alive and/or the guy next to them, by applying basic life-saving techniques. Applying a tourniquet, nasopharyngeal airway tube, or a necessary needle thoracentesis, could mean the difference between life and death. This is where the Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) and properly located tourniquets comes in to play.

The leading causes of death on the battlefield are hemorrhage and an inadequate airway. An IFAK is designed to address both of these combat injuries.

Of course, applying first aid is nothing new to the foot soldier. If we looked back centuries ago, we’d see soldiers carrying around bandages, oftentimes nothing more than shreds of torn cloths, used to cover up wounds and stop bleeds. As time progressed, so have combat first aid kits.

The first standard-issue first aid kits became a reality for the U.S. military in 1890. Some of the items found in these first medical kits can still be found in the most modern IFAKs. Nonetheless, these early-day first aid kits didn’t have some of the items required to save the life of a person with life-threatening combat-related injuries.

Fast forward to 2003. In comes the first real IFAK, just in time for the invasion of Iraq. It was first fielded by the Army and quickly followed by the Marine Corps and Navy.

Initially, the Army used squad automatic weapon (SAW) 100 round magazine pouches to carry the IFAK contents.