CASF gets permanent home

Monica Mendoza
Kaiserslautern American

Visitors came to the new, permanent, Contingency Aeromed-ical Staging Facility at Ramstein Feb. 10 to celebrate a moment in military history: the opening of the biggest and busiest facility of its kind.

But they also paused, for a moment, to remark on the work by the people that goes on inside those new walls. The CASF, they said, is more than a building, it is a place where injured and ill Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors start the healing process.

***image1***In the past three years, the medical staff, first working in a transformed gymnasium, then a temporary modular building and finally the 26,000 square-foot permanent facility, have helped more than 31,000 injured or ill servicemembers get safely to their next destination.

“Today, we proudly, officially open this facility which is the result of the commendable work of many people in this room, and many more who worked in this room and throughout this remarkable building, that will serve America’s forces and their families as they serve our nation’s interests in Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” said Col. Bill Nelson, 435th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander.

CASF is a place where injured, and sometimes scared, servicemembers first stop, en route to someplace else − maybe home, rehabilitation or intensive care. These servicemembers, mostly coming from downrange but also from all of Europe, are greeted at the CASF by a team of medical professionals whose job is to handle them with care. They get a hot shower, maybe their first in a week. They’ll get out of their dirty uniforms and into some new, clean clothes. Some will stay only hours, others may be at CASF one or two days.

“Regardless of where they come from, this new CASF will be a place where soldiers, seamen, marines, and Airmen, wounded or ill, can wait and prepare for transportation to more definitive places of care — it is a place where medical, nursing and technical staff reassures patients and ensures that patients can continue to travel safely,” said Capt. Robert Peltzer, 435th CASF deployed troop commander.

It would be nice if we didn’t have to build such facilities, said Col. Richard Elliott, 435th Base Chaplain.

“It would mean we were at peace,” he said. “But we are at war.”
Three years ago, at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, the medical team at Ramstein worked to open a CASF in the base gymnasium. In 72 hours the gym was transformed into a safe haven for the wounded, now coming back from their missions. Later, the team moved its CASF operations into a modular building.

“The modular CASF, which became operational in March 2003, provided tremendous support for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as well as various EUCOM missions,” Captain Peltzer said.

***image2***The new, permanent structure is better insulated, has better lighting, more privacy for its male and female patients, and has state-of-the art shower and toilet facilities specially designed for the injured to access with dignity and privacy, said Major Paul Langevin, 435th AMDS CASF flight commander. The CASF, built to accommodate 100 servicemembers, will serve all of the European Command patients and serve as a permanent U.S. Air Forces in Europe facility for future EUCOM and Central Command contigencies.

“This is the busiest CASF,” Major Langevine said. “One hundred percent of OEF and OIF come here.”

Army and Marine laisons are at the CASF to greet their own soldiers and help with the proper paperwork. And, there is the USO team, a staff of three and nine volunteers, who opened a lounge with books, Internet access for e-mails home and a television.

“With the help of the USO, CASF will also provide a warm reception and well-deserved hospitality,” Captain Peltzer said. “…A place where they can start the healing process as they continue their journey home.”