Ramstein facility has seen more than 50,000 patients from war zones
Stars and Stripes March 25, 2008
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — As the number of U.S. deaths in Iraq has surpassed 4,000, the number of wounded coming to the 435th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility is nearing its own sobering marker. The facility is nearing 44,000 patients from Operation Iraqi Freedom and is close to reaching 7,000 from Operation Enduring Freedom, according to Air Force statistics compiled this month.
The center recently surpassed its 50,000th patient from both operations since March 2003. Nearly 11,000 of those patients — or 22 percent — are considered battle injuries.
While American commanders and soldiers have pointed to signs that the troop “surge” in Iraq is working, the facility has not seen a dramatic drop in the number of overall patients.
Statistics show that the number of inbound patients from Iraq has gone down from a peak of 771 in June 2007, to 564 in February this year. But Maj. John Langevin, the facility’s commander, cautioned that the number of patients historically has gone down from summer to winter. In February, facility members moved patients 1,046 times. Last year, airmen moved patients 1,122 times in February and 1,070 in March.
Servicemembers from both Iraq and Afghanistan who need additional medical attention stop at Ramstein before going to either Landstuhl Regional Medical Center or U.S.-based hospitals.
The 435th CASF serves as a terminal for patients waiting to get a flight or transportation to another hospital. The 95 active-duty airmen, Reserve and Guard personnel also are responsible for moving patients to and from transport aircraft.
Capt. Ron Eller, a medical services officer deployed to Ramstein from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, is on his second tour at the facility. He called the experience at Ramstein “exhilarating.”
“It’s the most rewarding job I’ve had in the Air Force,” Eller said.
There are 30 airmen who are “permanently” stationed at Ramstein and working for the facility. The rest are deployed to Ramstein and come from units spread across 47 Air Force bases.
Master Sgt. Jonathan Thompson has worked with patients at Balad Air Base in Iraq and has now deployed to the Ramstein facility twice in the past five years.
“I’ve literally seen the full spectrum of patients,” Thompson said.
In the past five years, the facility has gone from a staging area set up in a base gymnasium to its own building with a capacity of about 100 beds.