MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. -- Nearly 20 Airmen from the 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron deployed this week in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. The Reserve Citizen Airmen will participate in a Transportation Command owned mission that Air Force Reserve Command is supporting with a large personnel component due to the higher volume of AE Airmen being in the Air Force Reserve.
“Almost all of these Airmen have clinical jobs and high acuity jobs [as civilians],” said Col. Matthew Hendell, 934 AES commander, who will also serves as the commander for the entire deployed relief effort. “That means from the medical skills side, they’re as sharp as they can get.”
The primary mission for these Reservists will be to provide lifesaving in-flight patient care in response to COVID-19 contingencies and humanitarian emergencies. Each crew will be built as specialized medical teams consisting of flight nurses and medical technicians who will be supported by a Critical Care Air Transport Team and an Infectious Disease Team as needed for various medical missions.
“These are going to be augmented crews so we’re going to have seven [AE personnel] together,” Hendell said. “There will be three flight nurses and four techs in each crew and they will be embedded in a transport isolation crew compliment but the nucleus of it is the AE crew.”
This mobilization is part of a larger package across the Air Force Reserve of nearly 100 aeromedical evacuation personnel and aircraft, headed to support COVID-19 response and take care of Americans. When performing aeromedical missions, these teams can operate on a number of U.S. Air Force aircraft and relatively quickly.
“When we get there, we’re supposed to setup from scratch and be fully functional within 24-48 hours to start flying COVID-19 missions,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Cassidy, 934 AES superintendent, who will also serve as the superintendent for the deployed relief effort. “It was so rapid of a response and a call-up. These Airmen were like, I can be there tomorrow.”
Before heading out onboard a 934th Airlift Wing C-130H, the deploying members were addressed by the wing commander.
“I know you’re going to make us really proud,” said Col. Chris Lay, 934th Airlift Wing commander. “I’m ecstatic that you’re getting out there into the mission. Stay safe. You got all of us behind you.”
Prior to forward deploying, AE personnel will go to Joint Base Charleston for specialized Transport Isolation System training. Air Mobility Command has designated JB Charleston as the sole TIS training hub for AE Airmen in response to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.
The TIS is an aircraft-based Air Force system designed to transport infectious patients in support of U.S. Transportation Command and the Department of Defense. The system was implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, but the Air Force has been working since 2017 to expand its mission to include other High Consequence Infectious Diseases.