440th Airlift Wing trains with Canadians
By Adam Luther, 440 AW/PA
/ Published July 17, 2013
POPE FIELD, N.C. -- Members of the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron had the unique opportunity to train with their Canadian counterparts in a medical exercise here, July 11-12.
These very specialized medics provide care to wounded service members when they are being flown out of a conflict area to a hospital. Aeromedical evacuation personnel have been deployed in support of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces since the war on terror began. Wounded service members have 98 percent survival rate once they reach aeromedical evacuation system in deployed environments.
This type of training exercise, with an international aeromedical evacuation unit, was a first for most of the Airmen involved and provided an opportunity which may not happen again in their career. The training was held at Pope Field but conducted using the Canadian version of the C-130J. Although the aircraft is familiar to the American Airmen, the Canadians have different rules and ways of providing patient care while in flight.
Additionally, the U.S. Airmen worked in blended crews of both Reserve and Active Duty, known as total force. Total force associations combine Reserve and Active Duty units on the same missions and are becoming common practice throughout the U.S. Air Force.
Some of the Canadian crew members were instructors at their aeromedical evacuation school and the idea of having Reservists in this career field was a new idea. When the training was over one of the Canadian instructors told Olson that she wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between Reserve and Active Duty other than the patches they wore.
Capt. Donna Olson, an Air Reserve Technician flight nurse with the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, explained that working in blended crews of Reserve and Active Duty is how the crews operate while deployed and often times Airmen are working with crew members they have never met.
"This is a chance to train that way," Olson said. "We have more opportunities since we have a Reserve and Active Duty unit here."
'Train as we fight and fight as we train' is a commonly used saying in the military; training with international partners imitates real world deployments and at the same time helps strengthen the already established ties. When aeromedical evacuation is called in, there is a possibility the crew will be transporting service members from other countries.
"The purpose of the training is to share knowledge," said Capt. Charles McMichael, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse. "In a deployed setting we all transport each other's injured troops. Our career fields mirror each other and are structurally the same, but there are differences though. That's one purpose of this though, to see where those are, what is different and maybe learn something new."
McMichael went on to say, "there is strength in diversity and this is another way of learning and creating that environment."
On the first day of the training exercise the U.S. Airmen shadowed their Canadian counterpart; observing and learning how the Canadians are trained to respond to different medical situations. During the second day of training the Canadians shadowed the U.S. Airmen. The international partners came together at the end of the exercise and discussed what was learned, suggested improvements and asked questions of each other.
Normal aeromedical evacuation loading of patients is not an easy process explained McMichael, involving a large amount of coordination and planning. Adding to the challenge of this training, the missions conducted during this exercise were done with aircraft engines running. This added to the difficulty because heat, exhaust, and the wind from the engines has to be considered while loading patients.
One of the biggest differences noticed by Olson was the way the two countries manage oxygen. The U.S. crews use a liquid form of oxygen while the Canadian use the compressed gas form. Since the training was happening on a Canadian aircraft the American Airmen had to adapt to a different way of doing things.
"The reason we make it back and we make it back ok is because we do practice these things," said Olson. "It helps all of our members, all of our flyers be more proficient at what they are doing."