Aeromedical evac squadron proves motto ‘always ready’

Airman 1st Class Nicole Spence
435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

“Always Ready” laid bare the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron’s depth of reliability Monday as a C-130 channel mission to Pristina, Kosovo, turned into a life saving assignment.
Only an hour before take-off did Maj. Chuck Wheeler, 86th AES training flight commander, learn there would be a delay due to high priority, last minute cargo – two patients with multiple gunshot wounds.
“We completed our pre-mission planning and aircraft configuration expecting this to be a routine mission, nothing out of the ordinary. Just prior to engine start, we were notified of the two add-on patients with multiple gunshot wounds,” said Major Wheeler.
On initial notification of the additional patients by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Mobility Operation Control Center’s Aeromedical Evacuation Cell, “we were told that one of the patients would require a critical care air transport team to augment our team of two flight nurses and two aeromedical evacuation technicians,” said Major Wheeler. So preparations were quickly set in motion.
The aircraft commander and flight crew were notified of the situation, the AE team began making adjustments to the initial plan. A Critical Care Air Transport Team from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center was alerted and reported to the waiting aircraft.
“The aircraft configuration had to change to accommodate two critical patients. We worked with the 37th AS loadmasters to update our load plan out of Pristina, and we contacted the 86th AES In-flight Medical Equipment shop to pre-flight and deliver additional medical equipment required for this change in patient load,” said Major Wheeler.
Once they arrived in Pristina the biggest complication was the loading of patients on the aircraft. Because of multiple IV drips, drains and ventilator/oxygen requirements, extreme care was necessary while loading the injured. Also, cargo loading had to be postponed until the patients were safely settled inside the plane.
The crew’s hard work paid off by safely transporting the two injured to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“This mission was the epitome of the motto on our patch ‘Always Ready.’ You start out a mission thinking one thing and must have flexibility and be ready to adjust to mission changes,” the major said.
“It’s was a nice mixture of everyone we needed at the time; it’s great when you get to see all the pieces come together. The aircrew worked in perfect unison to accomplish the many facets of this mission. It showed both 37th AS and 86th AES crews understood what the other’s respective missions entail and how they can work together to get it accomplished,” he said.
“Seven months ago we began planning and working out details of the conversion from dedicated C-9 missions to opportune use of any aircraft for AE. The new CONOPS developed by the AMOCC, USAFE Surgeon’s Office and 86 Operations Group flying squadrons has proven to provide flexible theater-wide AE coverage. The 86th AES is fully embedded into the 86th Airlift Wing mission, and we have the full support of all agencies in the execution of this mission,” said Col. Jacqueline Murdock 86th AES commander.
In the end, “this is what I’m here for. This is what the military pays me for, to provide ‘care in the air’, whatever the requirement,” said Major Wheeler.