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Aeromedical capabilities shaped by Desert Storm

446th Airlift Wing Commander

Published: 10:51AM January 28th, 2016

January 16 marked the 25th anniversary of Desert Storm, the coalition effort to free Kuwait from the grips of an Iraqi invasion force.

Operation Desert Storm was an exceptional example of Total Force integration in support of combat operations with an all-volunteer force, and one of the outcomes of the Gulf War impacts Team McChord today.

As a result of Desert Storm, the aeromedical evacuation of critically wounded service men and women was modernized. There are around 30 aeromedical evacuation units in the Air Force, most of which are managed by the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.

The 446th Airlift Wing plays a vital role in providing aeromedical evacuation and Critical Care Transport Teams. As Team McChord’s sole provider of aeromedical evacuation and Critical Care Transport Teams, the 446th Aeromedical Staging and 446th Aeromedical Evacuation squadrons deploy and support transporting critical care patients throughout the world.

The mission of aeromedical evacuation and Critical Care Transport Teams is to work as a seamless team. The Critical Care Transport Teams provide critical care capability to the aeromedical evacuation system, while aeromedical evacuation support the needs of Critical Care Transport Teams and cares for patients that are more stable than critical care patients.

While each global engagement results in unique lessons learned and modernization of abilities, reflecting back to the Gulf War highlights the importance of the Total Force concept in addition to the modernization of aeromedical evacuation capabilities.

In the buildup to Desert Storm, Reserve Citizen Airmen provided 50 percent of the Air Force’s strategic airlift aircrew and aerial port capability, 33 percent of its aeromedical evacuation aircrews and 25 percent of its tactical airlift forces.

By February 1991, more than 17,500 Reservists were on active duty —7,800 of whom were from the medical community. In expectation of massive casualties that never came, all Air Force Reserve medical units were called to active duty.

The first Reserve asset to reach the theater of operations was a C-141 Starlifter aircrew that landed in Saudi Arabia Aug. 8, 1990. By the eve of Desert Storm, Air Force Reserve aircraft and crews flew more than 107,000 hours, moved more than 135,000 passengers, 235,000 tons of cargo and delivered five million pounds of fuel. The Total Force flew more than 69,000 sorties in support of Desert Storm.

While the U.S. military has been engaged in continuous wartime operations since Sept. 11, 2001, it’s important to take a step back and examine how previous operations have shaped the military.

Desert Storm marked the first conflict in history to make comprehensive use of stealth and space systems support capabilities

against a modern, integrated air defense, allowing the Air Force to succeed in their endeavor of air superiority.

The conflict is remembered as the largest military alliance since World War II, but it is also an example of how our nation’s military worked to successfully employ the Total Force concept.