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Airmen practice Ebola safety during Exercise Mobility Solace

  • Published
  • By Airman Megan Munoz
  • Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Air Mobility Command Airmen flew an aeromedical evacuation of a simulated Ebola patient from Joint Base Charleston to Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, during Exercise Mobility Solace, Aug. 15-17, 2016.

Mobility Solace provided AMC and its joint partners, the opportunity to evaluate the procedures and operational sequences of moving multiple patients exposed or infected with Ebola using the Transportation Isolation System, while minimizing contamination risks to aircrew, medical attendants and the airframe.

The TIS, an enclosed negative pressure medical pod with clear walls, is designed to be loaded onto C-17 Globemaster III aircraft or C-130 Hercules aircraft. Two fully configured systems are able to fit in the cargo bay of a C-17.

"With today's worldwide air travel, very contagious infectious diseases can spread quickly across the globe," said Brig. Gen. Lee Payne, AMC command surgeon general. "People don't know they're infected and may travel and expose others with the disease. With the TIS, should the Secretary of Defense request it, we can move DoD members safely without worrying about spreading the disease."

According to the TIS user manual, the TIS has the ability to maintain infection control during an aeromedical evacuation of asymptomatic, infected or symptomatic patients. It also ensures the safety of others on the aircraft by preventing a specific virus from spreading.

During the exercise, the 628th Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineering flight was notified at approximately 10 a.m. Aug. 15, that the TIS was needed to simulate an aeromedical evacuation of a potential Ebola patient from Africa to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland.

After being notified the TIS was needed, it was loaded onto a C-17 from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware by loadmasters from the 3rd Airlift Squadron, 436th Airlift Wing, and prepped to transfer the exercise patient.

On Aug. 16. Maj. Stephanie La Pierre, individual mobilization augmentee to the Air Mobility Command surgeon general's office, was treated in the TIS as a simulated patient who had potentially been exposed to Ebola. She was given medical treatment by members of Scott Air Force Base's, Illinois, 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

"[The TIS] was like a little apartment," said La Pierre. "It felt nice and cool. The medical teams were very professional and were able to effectively give medical care with all their protective equipment on. The clear plastic made it easy to see through. I really liked having that line of sight to the medics."

The flight came to an end when the C-17 landed at JB Andrews and La Pierre was transferred to Walter Reed in a commercial ambulance designed to contain infectious diseases.
The final portion of the exercise was initiated on Aug. 17 when the aircraft returned with the TIS to JB Charleston for decontamination using the TIS Hot Air Decontamination. The TIS is put inside the THADS where it sees temperatures of nearly 180 degrees for five straight days. The extreme temperatures and five-day period get rid of any agents causing high consequence infectious diseases.

JB Charleston is the only base within the Department of Defense to house the TIS. The 628th MDG is responsible for maintaining at least one operational TIS at all times while also housing 10 unassembled systems, according to Staff Sgt. Aaron De L'Etoile, 628th MDG BE non-commissioned officer in charge.

"Strategically, Joint Base Charleston was looked at [to house the TIS]  because of the experience of both our active duty and reserve fliers, proximity of the Phoenix Ravens to support the missions and the Reservists who can provide aeromedical evacuation," said Maj. William Matthews, 628th Air Base Wing executive officer. "It was a great decision, our team showed great resolve by fielding the operationally capable TIS within the first few months after concept."

Although the 628th MDG BE flight is the TIS team lead at JB Charleston, it couldn't be put to use without the help of other AMC and JB Charleston units. The TIS support team is comprised of the 628th Medical Logistics flight, 437th Aerial Port Squadron and 437th Maintenance Group with aeromedical evacuation crews from Pope Field and Scott AFB and overseen by Maj. Stephen Williams, AMC surgeon general base support branch chief and TIS weapon system manager at Scott AFB.

The culminating work of all members of the TIS Team resulted in their selection as a finalist for the Air Force Association Theodore Von Karman award earlier this year. The Air Force-wide award is given to the unit with the most impact and contributions to science and engineering relating to aerospace activity.

"This exercise was our first complete real-time evaluation of our concept of operations," said Payne. "There are always gaps identified when first testing written procedures.  I am certain we'll learn where the gaps are in our current concept of operations and we'll do what we need to do to fix them. Looking into the future we hope to broaden the concept of operations for more than just Ebola to other high consequence infectious diseases."