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McChord Field

Exercise brings medics together

446th AW units train to transport patients

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:22PM December 12th, 2013
Exercise brings medics  together

Dean Siemon/Northwest Guardian

The Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron receives a patient from the 446th Airlift Wing to carry onto a C-17 aircraft for transport during an exercise Dec. 8 at JBLM McChord Field.

When Airmen in the 446th Airlift Wing conducted medical evacuation exercises in the past, training stopped just before the patient handoff to the wing’s aeromedical evacuation squadron.

But last month, the 446th AW began regular monthly exercises that include handing off the patients from the ground units to those transporting them on C-17 aircraft and delivering them for care at the end of sometimes long flights.

This month’s evacuation exercise took place in the early morning hours Sunday on the McChord Field flight line, loading six mannequin patients on litters onto aircraft.

“It’s what we train for every day,” said Lt. Col. John Olmedo. “If we’re going to make a mistake, we’re going to do it here when it’s safe.”

Initial preparations began the night before as patients were stabilized before transportation via medical bus to the C-17 aircraft, equipped with organic beds to hold up to nine patients.

“We make sure they’re stable for flight,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Lapham. “Usually 12 to 72 hours is how long we’ll hold them because we always have flights going out to keep that steady flow.”

Before the patient exchange took place, the logistics were planned for a handoff of six patients.

“When we transfer them to the next medical facility, they know everything that occurred to them prior to getting on the aircraft and everything we had to do during the flight,” said Senior Master Sgt. J.P. Wirth of the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

After being secured to litter beds on the aircraft, the unit flew a simulated trip from Rammstein Air Base, Germany to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. — a nine-hour flight trimmed to about four hours in exercise purposes.

At about 27,000 feet, the AES medical team did everything necessary to maintain stabilized patients and manage the pain of the patients on board.

“A lot of it is making sure their pain management levels are under control and that we’re looking at their medications and their routine scheduling and whatever injuries or illnesses that they have that those are being cared for and attended to.”

The training was realistic even though the mannequins couldn’t code or scream in pain during transfer. Leaders in 446th AW said it was a step forward in the second month of a developing exercise program, with additions planned including live patients provided by Madigan Army Medical Center to deversify the medical scenarios in each exercise.

“We haven’t done it in so long and we don’t want to have any hitches when we go out there; if there’s radio problems or there’s a piece of equipment we didn’t realize wasn’t correct,” Lapham said. “There were a whole host of things going on in the past several years, but getting it kicked off was just like a snap.”