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Technicians and nurses on the mission

  • Published
  • By Rhonda Griffin
  • 43rd Airlfit Wing, Public Affairs
The small group gathers around a table for a quick briefing on patient conditions and needs, determining who will complete each task and preparing a game plan before loading monitors and equipment into a truck to head out to the flightline. Just minutes later, those crewmembers are standing under the tail of a C-130, ready to put their plans into action. 

Though the task at hand would seem difficult to many, each individual on the team knows exactly where to be and what to do to make the process run smoothly. Their job is to turn the huge aircraft into a hospital with wings. 

When the back of the aircraft drops down, each member is on the move, loading and setting up equipment, strapping in patients and speaking with the flight crew before the doors are locked down and the aircraft hits the runway for take off to its next destination. 

This is the mission of the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, a crew of technicians and nurses who use their medical skills to care for patients during various types of emergency evacuations. The members perform many of the same tasks to assist patients as those in any medical field do on a daily basis. They, however, treat their patients in the back of an aircraft. 

Those who enter the AES have a medical background, but there is still much to learn. In addition to the medical skills the members have acquired before entering the squadron, they must also gain extensive knowledge of how to configure an empty C-130, KC-135, C-17 or other opportune aircraft into a working hospital. These duties require several hours of ground training before being updated to go up in the air. 

"As a crew, they must ensure all equipment is approved for flight," said Maj. John Connelly of the 43rd AES Aircrew Training. 

Members must know how to work together quickly to configure all of the components of the electrical, oxygen, lighting and communication needs of the flight, along with how to safely load and care for the patients at high altitudes - all of which require a strong working knowledge of each type of aircraft. During upgrade training, the students are faced with a number of scenarios, which can range from a patient coding to the plane catching fire. 

"They have to be prepared for anything and everything," Major Connelly said.
After the upgrade process has been completed, training is far from over. Members are provided with numerous flight-training missions to stay brushed up on their skills in case they must be put to the test during an actual emergency mission, which can include calls for deployment and to assist with natural disasters. 

"The training here is really good," said Senior Airman Christopher Samples, a technician in upgrade with the 43rd AES, who participated in his first ground training Aug. 21. "When you see people doing what you have learned, it all just clicks. And when you go on a mission, you're not just blindsided." 

Technicians and nurses learn the aspects of the aircraft and its system, nursing care guidelines, equipment, forms and emergency situations, how to configure and load the aircraft, and attend six ground training days before they are approved to go on a flight training mission, said Staff Sgt. Robert Hawkins of the 43rd AES Aircrew Training. 

"Then in the flight training periods, they are expected to put all of that knowledge together," Sergeant Hawkins said. 

When those in the medical field take flight to help others, their duties far surpass those who work in clinics and hospitals. 

"They already know how to care for the patient," Major Connelly said. "We just teach them how to do it in an aircraft."