Air Force and Army practice aeromedical evacuation in Hawaii

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 19, 2019

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — A Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 cargo aircraft flew from Hickam Field to Kalaeloa Airport on Thursday to pick up simulated wounded troops who had been transported from a notional battlefield by an Army Black Hawk helicopter.

In this case the exercise in interoperability was an aircraft response from Germany to improvised explosive device injuries near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — but it could just as easily have been a natural or man-made disaster or other emergency in Hawaii or the Pacific.

The point was practice between the Air Force and Army to rapidly treat casualties.

“It (Afghanistan) is just more familiar to us,” said Staff Sgt. Freddie Smith, a medical evacuation technician with the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Detachment 1, at Hickam. “We could have done any location — which is the point of this. So if something unfortunate were to happen in the real world where we needed people here to come to Barbers Point, this is exactly how we’d do it, whether it’s Barbers Point, whether it’s Germany to Bagram — same playing field.”

The military realizes that no one service can do it all, especially in a new era of “great power” competition with China and Russia, and that has brought service branches closer together than ever before.

Servicemembers with simulated burns and other injuries walked onto the C-17 as the Black Hawk’s rotor continued to turn, while mannequins representing more serious wounds were brought in on stretchers.

Medical crew members — some with less experience than others — swarmed over the mannequins to determine the severity of injuries and check heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals.

Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division observed the triage from inside the mammoth cargo bay of the aircraft.

The C-17 Globemaster III became a lifesaver in Iraq and Afghanistan with its ability to rapidly transport and provide airborne treatment for wounded troops.

“The C-17 is what we call the Cadillac of the sky,” Smith said. “If you are doing a medical evacuation, this is the dreamboat, so to speak.”

The aircraft has a cruise speed of 515 mph and can carry up to 74 patients at a time, according to the Air Force. Oxygen lines are built into the aircraft, and multitiered litters can be set up to accommodate medical equipment.

Starting in 2006, Hickam received eight of the versatile aircraft, with the last named Spirit of Kamehameha-Imua. Both the active-duty Air Force and Hawaii Air National Guard operate and maintain the aircraft.

The Hawaii training fulfills an annual training requirement for the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, said Chief Master Sgt. Jessica Green, a medical technician.

“In the Mississippi Air National Guard, we try to have a great relationship with all of the AE units around the globe,” Green said. “So here in Hawaii we have an AE unit that works with our Pacific Air Force mission, and they also have the uniqueness here of having the Army, the medical group, the air evacuation piece, the operations piece. So we can put it all together in this location and work together to prepare our troops for deployment.”

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