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News > Aeromedical evacuation ‘brings them back’
Aeromedical evacuation ‘brings them back’

Posted 8/24/2011   Updated 8/24/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Paul Labbe
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

8/24/2011 - Southwest Asia -- The patient waiting room is dark, constantly hums with engine noise and often smells of hydraulic fluid. But, for the passengers aboard this 'mission of mercy,' there are dedicated professionals whose job it is to make the several-hour long flight as safe and comfortable as possible.

Capt. Christy Livery, 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, was one of those professionals on board a C-130 Hercules on a recent mission to Afghanistan. On this particular mission, she served as medical crew director, one of five positions making up a typical aeromedical evacuation team. The other roles are flight nurse and three medical technicians.

"We get a lot of critical patients coming right out of the battlefield going to their next echelon of care," Livery said. "Once they receive care at the first echelon--which is to stabilize them--then we take them on either here or to other AORs so they can get the specific treatment that they need."

Aeromedical evacuation bridges the gap between care in the field and care provided once a patient arrives at a hospital. The 379th EAES makes regularly scheduled flights from Southwest Asia to Iraq and Afghanistan to both transport wounded warriors from the battlefield and return those who have received care back to their duty locations.

Although the aeromedical evacuation team usually teams with a C-130 aircrew, they can also fly on C-17 Globemaster IIIs, KC-135 Stratotankers and even the twin-turbo fan engine C-21 aircraft. The aircraft are reconfigured into a flying hospital of sorts with cardiac monitors, defibrillators, intubation devices, litters and various supplies to sustain many types of patients.

"We are usually here just to reinforce a situation," said Livery, a native of Springfield, Ill., deployed from Scott Air Force Base. "For example, if someone has a burn or any type of wound we won't redress the wound in the air because it's not a clean environment."

For critically ill or severely injured patients, a critical care air transport team--including a doctor, nurse and respiratory technician--is called upon to augment the aeromedical evacuation team.

Although the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard provides 85 percent of the total Air Force aeromedical evacuation capability, the need to have a continuous presence in the AOR puts stress on active duty units.

The 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Scott was the Air Force's pilot unit for developing aeromedical evacuation support and in 2010 deployed more than 90 percent of the squadron throughout the year, according to an Air Force Print News story.

Staff Sgt. Anne Engebretson, an aeromedical evacuation technician and instructor from Scott is one of the squadron members currently deployed.

"This is the beginning--this is where it all starts," said Engebretson, in reference to the mission of providing wounded warriors with the care they need and deserve, which is expedited by aeromedical evacuation teams. "Right here is the critical part, it's where the most injured and most vulnerable patients are."

The mission wouldn't be possible without the various airframes and aircrew members who fly them.

Maj. Stephen Cheek, 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron aircraft commander, said, "We know that our mission is to get the patients to where they need to go. The 'aero meds' are the ones tasked with their care so it's our job to facilitate them in any way possible."

Cheek is deployed from Pope Field, N.C.

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