86th AES members care for heroes on their way home

by Senior Airman Amanda DickRamstein Public Affairs

Seats and stanchions line the inside of the cargo area as chilly morning air fills the aircraft.

Aeromedical evacuation technicians move back and forth, preparing the aircraft for patients by bringing in medical equipment, putting supplies in their proper place and making sure everything they will need is on board.

Their mission – to take wounded warriors home.

Members of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron begin their mission the day before the flight when they receive information about the patients and a flight clinical coordinator is appointed.

According to Capt. Reggie Brown, 86th AES flight nurse and FCC, his job is to communicate with the 435th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility and the 10th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron about patients’ needs.

The FCC then puts together a seat and litter chart, sets up logistics, creates a load plan, coordinates transportation for crew members and coordinates aircraft setup.
The day of the flight, the preparation propels into action.

Once they know the patient load, usually around 8 a.m., a team of aeromedical evacuation technicians heads out to ready the aircraft according to the specifications from the FCC.

“We look at oxygen requirements, to see how many lines of oxygen we need to hang, and electrical requirements, if they have any extra equipment,” said Staff Sgt. Steffanie Burch, 86th AES AET.

The team also puts together the get-down litters for patients who need to rest during flight and get-up seats for any litter patients who may need to take a break from the litter.

“For every three litter patients, we need at least one get-up seat,” said the sergeant, an Arlington, Texas native. “For every three ambulatory patients, we need a get-down seat.”

While the team is setting up all of the patient requirements for the flight, the aeromedical evacuation operations officer coordinates the behind-the-scene jobs.
“I make sure the plane is going to get refueled and is configured according to the plan,” said Staff Sgt. Melinda Van Dyk, 86th AES aeromedical evacuation operations officer. “I make sure all the equipment gets on the aircraft and we’re going to have food, blankets and pillows. I also make sure there’s water for the bathrooms and enough oxygen in the aircraft for the patients.”

Around 11 a.m., the 86th AES flight crew shows up to conduct function checks before the patients arrive.

When the patients arrive, a member of the flight crew boards the busses to make sure patients are secured correctly before loading the aircraft. Once patients are loaded safely and the plane takes off to its destination, patient care begins.
“What we do in flight is take care of serving meals and making sure they get their medication, if needed,” said Staff Sgt. Twanna Jones, 86th AES AET.

“We also help them get up and walk to the restroom and make sure they hydrate at least every two hours.”
Up in the air, technicians and flight nurses perform similar duties to those in a clinic, helping more than 60 patients a month.

“Essentially we’re a flying hospital,” said Maj. Paul Langevin, 86th AES standardizations and evaluations chief. “We do the same things you would on a clinic floor.”

To provide the type of care patients need, those involved with these missions require a medical background.

“I’ve been in the medical field, but this job is different,” said Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Araujo, 86th AES AET. “You get to see the other side of the military. I can say I’m taking part of being able to bring the military home.”

Many of the members of the 86th AES said they enjoy their job and feel it is very rewarding.

“I love my job,” said Sergeant Araujo. “I always get goosebumps whenever we’re flying a mission. I meet so many incredible people and so many heroes on the aircraft. This is the best job in the world. There’s no better job, no better feeling than to know you are part of something bigger – a bigger picture.”