SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Air, a key component people need to survive in this world, yet it’s often a second thought. From C-21 pilots flying at 45,000 feet, to aeromedical evacuation teams needing oxygen to help a dying patient, O2 has to be readily available to enable rapid global mobility.
Here at Scott AFB, members of the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron are in charge of managing all supplemental liquid oxygen, or LOX, systems on base and supplying it to those who need it to accomplish their missions.
“I find it very rewarding to be one of the reasons why our pilots can breathe clean air during their flights,” said Staff Sgt. Martez Little, 375th LRS non-commissioned officer in charge of fuels training and support. “I like to know that my work supports our mission at any installation with birds in the air.”
One unit that requires the use of LOX is the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron who are responsible for transporting wounded or injured Airmen through the use of aircraft.
“Oxygen is something all living things need to survive,” said Staff Sgt. Harsh M. Vaidya 375th AES mission planning technician. “Even more so when someone is ill or injured. When you add altitude on top of that, it would be impossible to transport a patient safely that needs oxygen.”
When an individual is injured they experience a decrease in circulating blood volume. This can cause decreased cardiac output which impairs the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and produces a state of shock, symptoms of which include breathlessness and hypoxia.
In addition to its medical uses, LOX systems are used in a variety of Air Force aircraft when altitudes exceed 12,000 feet, to include C-17’s, C-130’s and C-5’s.
“LOX has an expansion ratio of 900 to one,” said William Murphy, 375th Operations Support Squadron transient alert lead servicer. “This makes it highly beneficial to larger cargo aircraft, because of the large amount of oxygen needed for periods of unpressurized flight during airdrops and the large number of passengers they may haul.”
While LOX is an invaluable asset used for patients and military aircraft, it doesn’t come without risk.
LOX, while integral to the mission, is also a highly dangerous compound that supports and accelerates combustion, said Murphy. To safely handle LOX, the 375th LRS must eliminate all possible dangers. By eliminating the fuel and ignition source from the equation they are able to safely handle the material. To further ensure their safety, all aircraft and equipment are grounded and Airmen who handle LOX are equipped with special clothing equipment to eliminate static electricity as an ignition source. These precautions ensure that the Airmen at Scott are sufficiently prepared to help assist the mission.
Whether it is a sortie by a C-130 carrying mission essential material or the transportation of an injured soldier flying across the globe to receive life-saving surgery, something as simple as an oxygen system can be the difference between life or death.