Matthew Dodds, a member of the Loudoun County Combined Fire Rescue System, Ashburn Volunteer Station recently completed his Advanced Tactical Medic certification in Gilbert, Arizona.
Counter Narcotics and Terrorism Operational Medical Support or “CONTOMS” is a public-private partnership of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Tactical Medicine, the United States Park Police, and the Chesapeake Health Education Program. CONTOMS was started more than 30 years ago and was born out of tragedy seeing the need for increased tactical medical support from SWAT calls and large scale disasters. Of the more than 1 million estimated Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics in the United States, a mere fraction have attended CONTOMS, making Dodds among the less than 1% of all EMTs and Paramedics who are certified Tactical Medics in the United States.
Already a graduate of CONTOMS Basic class #138, Dodds was invited back both as a cadre instructor and to attend CONTOMS Advanced Course IX in October 2022. The grueling weeklong class is taught as an entirely hands-on course and invitations are only extended to CONTOMS basic graduates who excelled in the basic course. Advanced Class students worked 12-14 hour days in full tactical gear including body armor, helmets and gas masks to complete tasks such as breaching walls and floors, rappelling in full gear to patients, and working in IDLH environments such as live tear gas, and then providing critical patient care with just the tools on their back.
HHS Tactical Medic Team Commander Richard Thomas said “All scenarios we do are drawn from real life events and lessons learned. We try to recreate events as closely as we can to simulate the chaos. The Mumbai Terrorist Attacks, the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, and incidents arising from the recent riots in Washington, DC are all scenarios we run. We apply the same principals we all know about triage and MCIs, and insert the added stress of you being in the hot zone. On the ambulance you have every tool you could ever need, but in a tactical environment you only have what’s in your pockets or on your back. You learn to prioritize what you really need to keep someone alive for the next few minutes until your team can get that armored truck or helicopter in to get this victim out. Every EMT and Paramedic have trained and practiced running a full code, but very few can say they’ve worked one in a dark room full of tear gas, with strobe lights and people screaming, all while intubating while you’re wearing a gas mask. That’s one of our scenarios, and our team did just that in the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, working a code and delivering O2 through a special BVM that had a CBRNE canister on it because the Capitol was full gas.
When not volunteering in Ashburn, Dodds works as a Division Chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, DC; leading their national emergency management team known as the “CBP Watch.” He additionally is a member of the elite National Capital Region’s Emergency Response Team and deploys regularly to incidents such as civil unrest, presidential inaugurations, and other nationally significant events.
He recently completed his Advanced EMT at the LCFR Training Center and is currently precepting to be cleared as a Loudoun County AEMT.
If you are interested in learning more about CONTOMS or the tactical medic program, please contact Matthew Dodds at Matthew.Dodds@Loudoun.gov.