In 2018 my two step-sons (we’ll call them Adam and John) took a cross-country trip to visit me in Florida. While in Florida, we took the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors of the sunshine state by doing some wave running, eating seafood, throwing axes, hitting the range for some pistol and rifle work, and taking a tour of the 7th Special Forces Group compound. As a former Special Forces Medic (18D) I rarely miss an I also passed along some of my experience in combat medical tasks. We discussed basic first aid, including how to apply a chest seal, combat gauze, various dressings and tourniquets.

A few months after their visit, while Adam was working a night shift, a coworker of his grievously cut herself. The immediate outpouring of dark blood coupled with the streams of bright red spurting blood were the hallmarks of a serious injury involving both venous and arterial lacerations. With quick thinking, Adam fastened a tourniquet from a handkerchief he always carries with him and effectively stopped the flow of blood.

Did Adam use a CAT, RATS, or SOFTT type tourniquet? No. He used a simple handkerchief and it worked well. Tourniquets, like seatbelts and combat medics, save lives, even when they are constructed of improvised means.

When asked by students which tourniquets Hybrid Tactics instructors carry, we apply the same Asymmetrical Mindset to answer this question that we do to all of our questions: It depends on the mission.

Profiles Affect The Tourniquet Carried
When I was in Special Forces, the majority of my operations were conducted in rural environments that consisted of a camouflage pattern duty uniform that matched the environment. My equipment and gear was generally worn exterior of my uniform and relatively easily accessible. I didn’t need to be concerned with “concealing” anything except myself as a whole, therefore my mission, and more importantly my “profile”, permitted me to carry nearly any equipment, to include a tourniquet, that I desired.

As a former member of Special Forces and as a government contractor, I have relied on the CAT series of tourniquets as my primary “go to” since I graduated the SF medics course in 2002. I have also carried the SOFTT, the Ratchet tourniquet, the RATS, and TK-4 tourniquets. Each tourniquet has its strong and weak points.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each tourniquet, and then how to select the best tourniquet for your needs.