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McChord Airmen test their readiness in Rainier Medic exercise

446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Published: 07:06PM June 5th, 2014

When you can’t get to the mountain, you bring the mountain to you. That’s what the 446th Aeromedical Staging and 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are planning with their “Rainier Medic” exercise.

Beginning May 27 to Saturday, June 7, more than 150 medical Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen are at McChord Field for a medical exercise that also serves as the first mobile aeromedical evacuation patient staging course.

“For this exercise we’re simulating JBLM Lewis Main is somewhere in Africa and Gray Army Airfield is the airfield, and our (outbound patient staging) facility is ... by the DuPont gate,” said Capt. Paul Hall, 446th ASTS medical readiness deputy flight commander.

Medical units drove their patients to Gray Army Airfield on Lewis Main, where they were loaded onto C-17s. They flew in the aircraft that performed an AE mission and landed at McChord Field, which simulated Madigan Army Medical Center or Ramstein Air Base, where receiving teams at Hangar 12 treat them. According to Capt. Jeffrey Mermilliod, 446th ASTS executive officer, 16 Air National Guard Airmen participated in the exercise that was planned in December 2013.

“We have representatives from 19 different units coming from all over the country to participate,” Mermilliod said.

The aeromedical evacuation patient staging course portion of the exercise helped the 446th ASTS and 446th AES increase readiness levels and satisfied mobility requirements as a formal unit-type-code course.

“Usually we have to go down to Camp Bullis in San Antonio to get in the course,” Hall said, “but it’s ... rare that you can get a slot in there unless you’re on the verge of deploying.”

The 446th AES also benefited from the training course in their readiness.

“Flying AE missions during this mobile aeromedical evacuation patient staging course and the Rainier Medic exercise enhances not only the training for the AE crews, but also gives realistic coordination and time constraints to the ground medical UTCs that support en route patient care,” said Senior Master Sgt. J.P. Wirth, 446th AES superintendent of clinical services. “This includes the UTCs that fall under both the ASTS and AES.”

The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard do about 95 percent of the aeromedical evacuation patient staging mission, Hall said. So opening the exercise to other Reserve units made sense.

About 28 people from the 302th ASTS, including the commander who is part of its critical care air transport team, brought a C-130.

“We’re going to have a C-17, an Army rotary wing helicopter, and several Army tactical vehicles so we can practice loading and off-loading patients on those transports,” Hall said. “In the field we use vehicles of opportunity, so we need to understand how to load them and how many patients can go on them. For instance, we’ll have some field ambulances, which I believe can fit four patients, and some five-ton trucks, which I believe can fit 12 patients.”

ASTS and AES Airmen have different responsibilities for patients in their care, but they must work together seamlessly to perform their missions.

Patients from the battlefield go to a field hospital for immediate treatment. If they need to be transported out of the theater, they go through a validation process in the U.S. Transportation Command’s Regulating and Command and Control Evacuation System, Hall said, which tracks patients’ movement until they get to the appropriate hospital.

“At our facility, we prepare the patient for the flight; provide them their care until we transport them to the aircraft,” Hall said. “The AE are on the aircraft waiting to receive our patients and they care for them on this flight to their next stop. If it’s on the ground it’s us, if it’s in the air its AE. The ramp is the cutoff.”

For 446th AES Airmen, the opportunity to fly twice helps them meet flight currency requirements.

“Being able to have our C-17s fly sorties into Gray Army Air Field during the exercise allows the AE crews to gain valuable training above and beyond the typical AE training mission,” Wirth said. “They will be able to accomplish essential training in-flight that meets their currency needs for flying hours while encountering emergency patient and aircraft scenarios.”

They communicate with the ground medical UTCs at two simulated deployment locations, Wirth said. The interaction between the ground and flying UTCs is an area of interest to the Air Force Surgeon General as well as Air Mobility Command, as the Air Force improves patient care at all stages of movement.