AF moves medical transport unit
August 31, 2003
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The unit that fields requests for patient transport aboard Air Force medical flights has moved to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
The shift affected eight personnel, Pacific Air Forces officials said. It was made ahead of the C-9A Nightingale’s retirement.
The final Nightingale flight in the Pacific is scheduled for Sept. 12.
A 24-hour control operation, the Theater Patient Movement and Requirement Center validates the need for patient airlift, finds aircraft and directs crews to move patients to care facilities.
Hickam was designated the center’s new location because it’s home to Air Mobility Operations Control Center, Lt. Col. Linda Jennings, the center’s Pacific director, said in an e-mail forwarded by PACAF.
The center coordinates with Air Mobility to assign an aircraft to a medical mission.
Also, many patients from across the Pacific theater are treated at Tripler Army Medical Center, the Pacific’s regional medical center at Honolulu.
A new component of the Pacific’s medical-airlift mission is Hickam’s Aeromedical Evacuation cell, which finds available aircraft to evacuate patients and follows the mission until the patient has reached the final destination.
Both the Aeromedical Evacuation cell and Theater Patient Movement and Requirement Center will coordinate with ground-support teams at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, to prepare an aircraft for all medical evacuations.
Starting Monday, Kadena’s KC-135 tanker, configured to carry and care for patients, will handle all urgent medical flights.
Another change is the way paperwork is completed prior to each mission.
At Yokota, the Theater Patient Movement and Requirement Center had a designated aeromedical evacuation officer perform the task.
Now, the nurse of the day at Kadena will access the mission number on a computer application to pull off the required center-generated paperwork such as special diets, baggage manifest, and names of patients, crews, and medical and nonmedical attendants, Jennings said.
If the server is down, mission packs will be faxed.
The transfer to Hickam was planned for two years, Jennings said.
Moving an entire operation on short notice posed a challenge, said Capt. Laura Palm, clinical mission planner. The staff received its permanent change of station orders two to three months in advance.
“We overcame numerous obstacles,” Jennings said. “The biggest challenge was operating out of two locations — Yokota and Hickam — while staff out-processing at Yokota and in-processing at Hickam.”
The total billets for the Theater Patient Movement and Requirement Center went from five to 14, but the same number of personnel work at the center, Jennings said. The center’s Yokota billets were augmented with manpower from the 374th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron since 1998.
The center’s staff is composed of a director, a deputy, a validating flight surgeon, four clinical mission planners and seven enlisted administrative technicians.
The center is currently housed in a temporary site with a plan to move to PACAF headquarters later this year.