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Aeromedical crews train on different aircraft in Minneapolis

Capt. Matt Grimes and 2nd Lt. Amanda Piersak, flight nurses in the 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, set up an intravenous drip aboard a C-17 aircraft during dissimilar aircraft readiness training Aug. 8, 2009. The squadron hosted the training at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Air Reserve Station, Minn., Aug. 8-9. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Williams)

Capt. Matt Grimes and 2nd Lt. Amanda Piersak, flight nurses in the 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, set up an intravenous drip aboard a C-17 aircraft during dissimilar aircraft readiness training Aug. 8, 2009. The squadron hosted the training at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Air Reserve Station, Minn., Aug. 8-9. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Williams)

MINNEAPOLIS -- The quarterly dissimilar aircraft readiness training exercise for Air Force Reserve Command aeromedical evacuation squadrons wrapped up here Aug. 9.

The 934th Airlift Wing hosted the event at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Air Reserve Station. About 120 people and four aircraft from 11 bases throughout the command joined reservists of the 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron for the two-day training.

"I think this is the best DART I've ever participated in or coordinated," said Senior Master Sgt. Ron Nowasell, 22nd Air Force chief of aeromedical evacuation training. "The host was phenomenal. They read the lessons learned from prior exercises and did not duplicate the errors from other hosts. They set the bar high."

Eight aircrews from five bases throughout the command participated in the exercise, designed to give hands-on training to flight nurses and aeromedical technicians on aircraft that they don't have at their home bases. Two KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., flew in for the training, along with a C-17 from Dover AFB, Del., and a C-130 from Peterson AFB, Colo.

"We don't get to see C-17 aircraft every day, and it was great getting acquainted with people who work on that airframe all the time," Sergeant Nowasell said.

The exercise began on the morning of Aug. 8 as each participant trained in configuring each of the available airframes through static training and flew training missions that afternoon with Airmen made up to simulate wounded combat troops. The training ended on the morning of Aug. 9 with two and a half hour training flights on different airframes.

"It was nice working with crews from across the country," said Senior Airman Tito Carrillo, an aeromedical technician with the 433rd AES from Lackland AFB, Texas. "It was a good training environment, and it was nice coming together with people that I've met from tech schools and other places. We learned a lot from each other."

Aeromedical evacuation crew members from Wright -Patterson AFB, Ohio; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; Lackland AFB; and Peterson AFB joined their hosts from Minneapolis during the quarterly exercise.

Staff Sgt. Rachel Snook, 934th AES aviation resource manager, was pleased with her team's performance.

"We processed flight orders, ran the mission board and troubleshot problems like when an aircraft broke and we had to switch crews and patients around," she said. "There were so many crews and so many people that it became mass confusion when we had to make crew changes and swap aircraft ... usually things like this are a disaster, but this was awesome. Everybody knew what their jobs were and worked well with everyone else. It couldn't have gone better."

A lot of the planning was coordinated by Capt. Jennifer Aasland and Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Cassidy, both of the 934th AES. Sergeant Cassidy had a death in the family that occurred shortly before the exercise and wasn't able to attend.

A lot of planning and preparation by people behind the scenes went into making the exercise successful, according to Col. Ron Wilt, 934th Operations Group commander.

"It didn't go perfect, but no training exercise ever goes perfect, otherwise we wouldn't have them," Colonel Wilt said. "We've received a lot of good comments on the feedback surveys including 'Best DART ever'."

Colonel Wilt was one of the 36 volunteer "patients" who agreed to be strapped to a litter, painted with fake blood and don an IV bag to help this DART be as realistic as possible.

"I'm interested in the aeromedical evacuation mission, and it was a fun experience participating," he said.

Lt. Col. Sherry Hemby, 934th AES commander, was pleased with the comments her squadron received for its efforts in planning and executing the exercise.

"We read the after action reports from previous DARTs and addressed each of those issues" she said. "There is always the unknown and communication is the key to resolving those issues.

"One crew member from a visiting base said, 'We should have all of our DARTs up here,' so I think we did an awesome job," she said. "The compliments just thrill me."

The next DART is scheduled for Oct. 2-4 at March ARB. (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)