MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, FL --
Citizen Airmen assigned to three aeromedical evacuation squadrons, participated in a multi-day exercise with operations here and at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, Feb. 2-5.
The training event which incorporated C-17 and C-130 aircraft, brought together personnel from the 45th AES here, the 94 AES Dobbins ARB and the 446th AES, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, was designed to enhance operational skills, and familiarity between the participants.
This innovative training event tested the agility of the three squadrons as they simulated operations normally seen at combat medical facilities, and forward operating bases, throughout the Central Command area of responsibility.
“The goal for this exercise was to get our members trained and working with other units, just like they would downrange,” said, Col James Palmisano, 45th AES commander. “We wanted every facet of our job to be tested, and with the combination of the other units, we were able to establish the relationships that will benefit us in the field.”
The premise of the exercise was that Dobbins ARB would serve as the forward operating base where casualties would be collected. The patients would then be transported via C-17 or C-130 to MacDill AFB which served as the primary staging area, before departing for a larger medical facility.
Before the first mission was launched, an Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT) which serves as the command center for all patient movement, was established at MacDill AFB. The members of the AEOT oversaw the communications element which needed to establish connectivity within one hour of arrival, to meet the operational requirements.
The creation of the AEOT, and establishing the deadline to provide satellite communications, prepared the Airmen to operate as if they are deployed to a bare-base location without any pre-established infrastructure.
“Our job is vital to our crewmembers because they communicate with pilots, or staging bases, so for them to be able to do their job, we have to do ours,” said Tech Sgt. James Britton, 45th AES communication technician. “Training like this is great for us because it ensures that our people can thrive in fast paced environments under duress.”
Once the patients were airborne, the five member crews consisting of two flight nurses and three medical technicians ran through scenarios simulating a patient or an inflight emergency, or an emergency upon landing.
The exercise also provided some real world obstacles the crews were forced to overcome, and could easily encounter downrange.
Early in the exercise, a maintenance issue prevented the C-17 from departing as scheduled, forcing the AEOT to adjust and find a solution which was to reconfigure a C-130 to accommodate a larger patient load.
“When the plane missed it’s take off time, I had to figure out the best way to not only continue to get our people trained, but as a commander, ensure that they were safe,” said Palmisano. “This exercise showed me how I can better protect my people, so it’s not only training for the Airmen, but for me as a commander.”
Whether in the air or on the ground, communication and the ability to form a strong team is vital to the AE mission. With this in mind, Palmisano and his team established one of the few joint pre-deployment exercises in the command.
According to Palmisano, exercises such as this are a cost-effective way to take care of the Airmen, by providing them the skills and relationships to set them us for success when deployed.
“With this joint training, we got the right results and it’s a credit to our Airmen,” Palmisano said. “Not only were our Airmen able to be trained, we had members from other bases build a rapport with our Airmen here. We’re going to try and ensure that we continue these exercises for years to come because we all benefit, and more importantly the Air Force benefits.”
Aeromedical evacuation crews and critical care transport teams operate anywhere air operations occur in support of military operations, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response.