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Flying medics come to Keesler

Col. Thomas Hansen (right), 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander, and Lt. Col. Brian May, 403rd Operations Group commander, unfurl the 36th AES guidon during the squadron's redesignation ceremony Oct. 15, 2016, at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The unit relocated to Keesler AFB from Pope Field, N.C., and the squadron members are tasked with transporting wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines by air to locations where they can receive critical medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

Col. Thomas Hansen (right), 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander, and Lt. Col. Brian May, 403rd Operations Group commander, unfurl the 36th AES guidon during the squadron's redesignation ceremony Oct. 15, 2016, at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The unit relocated to Keesler AFB from Pope Field, N.C., and the squadron members are tasked with transporting wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines by air to locations where they can receive critical medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron unfurled its flag in a ceremony here today and officially became part of the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing.

Lt. Col. Brian A. May, 403rd Operations Group commander, presided over the ceremony that made the unit, which relocated here from Pope Field, N.C., part of his organization.

The unit, which is scheduled to include 40 officers and 83 enlisted personnel, consists of specialized teams that routinely move critically ill or injured troops after they've been stabilized or received damage-control surgery.

“The matching red boots and capes that these folks have when they are flying these missions are real,” said May pointing to members of the squadron in the audience. “Those are some super heroes back there.”

The Air Force has 32 of these “super hero” units. Four of those AE units are active-duty squadrons and the remainder are in the Guard and Reserve, said Senior Master Sgt. Tony Staut, AE technician.

“AE teams provide medical evacuation capability to the U.S. Air Force and the warfighters in any theater of operation or humanitarian mission that is required,” said Staut. “Our job is to turn the C-130 into a flying ambulance. We pick up the people that need help, and we get them out of there.”

The AE teams, consisting of a medical crew director, flight nurse and three aeromedical evacuation technicians, primarily use C-130s, C-17s and KC-135s to transport patients to a medical facility for care.

The relocation to Keesler is beneficial for several reasons, said Staut.

The squadron now has access to the 403rd Wing’s training missions. The wing has 20 C-130Js, 10 of which are flown by the 815th Airlift Squadron “Flying Jennies” and the remainder by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters.” While aircrew are flying their training missions, AE teams can conduct their training in the back of the aircraft, said Staut.

It also benefits the 81st Medical Group here, which operates the second largest medical center in the Air Force. AE teams frequently work with Critical Care Air Transport Teams, or CCATTs, and Tactical Critical Care Evacuation Teams, or TCCETs. These 81st MDG CCATTs are specialized medical team that operate a portable intensive care unit, while their TCCETs provide emergency critical care in most rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

The unit isn’t wasting any time with its transition to operational capability at Keesler.

“Today is our re-designation ceremony, and yesterday we flew our first training mission here,” said Col. Thomas M. Hansen, 36th AES commander. “We don’t have time to waste; we have to be ready. We have to do that, we have no option, it’s what expected of us, and it’s what we will do. We have a great group of people here to start.”

Right now, the squadron has 30 personnel in the unit.

“We are rebuilding and looking for nurses and medical technicians to find it in their heart to do this incredible mission,” said Staut.

Triumph over adversity is the squadron’s motto and is displayed on their patch. It not only symbolizes a patient’s journey to wellness, but the squadron’s ability to overcome the challenges that lie ahead in rebuilding the unit.

“When you get in your car or truck … take a look … think for a moment about why that windshield is so big in front of you, but your rearview window is so small. It’s not the things that happened in our past – yes that helps shape us, helps define us – but what’s important is where we are going in the future,” said May. “That’s why that window is so big. Triumph over adversity.”


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