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Care in the Air

Airman shows information to another person

Staff Sgt. Carlos Marles, 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron aeromedical evacuation technician, shows his teammates a plan created for in-flight patient care training at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. Each member has specific tasks to follow while in the air to ensure the AES mission is completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airman listens to another person

Tech. Sgt. Renee Cheatham, 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron simulation and technology NCO in charge, gets additional information about the team’s evacuation plan while on the bus to the flight line at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. In order for things to run smoothly, each person must know what their responsibilities are the second they get on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airmen sit in briefing room

Members of the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron gather in a conference room at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. While there, they were given scenarios regarding different patients they might see and had to devise a plan to care for them while in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Patch sits affixed to arm of Airman

The 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron completes scenarios on several patients with different types of medical needs while flying inside a C-17 Globemaster III at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. They train so they can be prepared to provide rapid response aeromedical evacuation capabilities quickly and efficiently in real-world situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airman pilot aircraft

The pilot and copilot of a C-17 Globemaster III perform an approximately three hour flight for a team of 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Airman at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. The purpose of the flight was to train and prepare the Airman for situations in which aeromedical evacuation capabilities would need to be used. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airmen awaiting evaluation results in aircraft

Members of the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron are evaluated during their aeromedical evacuation training at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. The need to be evaluated to ensure they can perform their job well and be able to provide rapid response aeromedical evacuation capabilities when needed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

Airmen simulate patient care

Members of the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron care for a ‘patient’ on a C-17 Globemaster III during training at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., May 17, 2019. Members train on a real flight to simulate what it would actually be like if they needed to care for patients in a real-world situation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda Simpson)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --

Dangers are always present in today’s world. Whether it is a category 5 hurricane hitting the East Coast leveling everything in its path or an intense fire fight in the heartland of Afghanistan, every day could be someone’s last. However, there is a squadron always ready at a moment’s notice to do whatever it takes to bring someone.

 

The 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron is one of four active duty AE units in the Air Force comprised of 122 members. Units like the 375th AES are the ones who transport the wounded from the frontlines to higher-stage medical facilities while providing life-saving care at 30,000 feet in the air.

 

“We are sort of a flying hospital,” said Master Sgt. Angel Curiel, 375th AES Standards and Evaluations flight chief. “We can do medical care on the plane to ensure they are safe, and they are getting everything they need until they can get back to an [higher-stage] hospital on the ground.”

 

In a hospital, there can be hundreds of doctors and nurses at any given time able to assist with almost any medical situation they may face, but AE Airmen don’t have that luxury.

 

Capt. Crystal Gomez, 375th AES flight nurse, said, “In the hospital on the ground you have all the resources available to you. When we are flying in the air, we are flying with two nurses and three medical technicians, so we base our various clinical experiences and use those experiences to take care of our patients. So when we are in the air, the resources that we take onboard the aircraft with us, that’s what we have.”

AE is not a career field that one can join straight out of basic military training—one has to apply and be selected for it. All AE Airmen are part of a medical career field, hold the rank of at least senior airman, and have extensive medical training. This is to ensure those who are selected from the prestigious service are the best of the best, and capable of dealing with stressful situations in small teams.

 

Curiel explained that they train each day whether on static aircraft on the ground or on routine flying missions aboard various aircraft configured for AE patients

 

Whether it is on a C-21, C-17 or even a C-5, a lot of work goes into getting an AE mission airborne. AE Airmen spend countless hours planning, inspecting gear and going over medical scenarios to prepare for what they may face, but they couldn’t do it all by themselves.

 

“We have a motto here, you can’t fly without supply,” said Capt. Willie Jones, 375th AES support flight commander. “So to be able to get the crews, nurses and technicians the necessary equipment they need, they rely on us heavily to be able to prepare their equipment, buy their equipment, and have it staged by the aircraft. We are also the ones who move the patients from the actual medical facilities out to the aircraft.”

 

In 2018, the unit performed 354 patients’ movements throughout the continental United States and Pacific Command, while deploying 75 members of their squadron.

 

“You get to be that front line that tells them ‘we’re taking you out of that, we’re taking you back to a safe location, whatever you need I’m here for you,’” said Curiel. “The satisfaction is talking to that patient and seeing that look on that patient’s face and seeing them understand that they are finally taken care of, they’re finally safe.”

 

The world is full of uncertainty, but there is one thing that is certain. And that’s the fact that the members of the 375th AES are always training, always ready and always willing to give it their all to bring the sick and injured home