by Staff Sgt. Kirby Turbak
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
On June 15, the 86th Medical Operations Squadron commenced 24/7 ambulance services on Ramstein Air Base. In the past, base ambulances were only available weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., not including American holidays.
“If medics weren’t on duty, we’d have to call a downtown ambulance to come in,” said John Thompson, 86th Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief. “Their average response time to get to the base and through the gate is 12 to 20 minutes. If you broke your ankle at the gym, 12-20 minutes is one thing, but if you’re having heart issues or trouble breathing, a quick response time means everything.”
While base firefighters learn basic life support skills, they lack any transport capability for those having a medical emergency.
Recognizing these needs, 86th Medical Group leadership began sourcing additional ambulance services staff members. Those efforts were approved in early 2019 and additional ambulance members began to arrive at Ramstein.
The MDG started their training program and reached out to the 86th CES Fire Protection Flight to see if they would be interested in striking a long-term arrangement that would house the ambulance service in one of the Ramstein fire stations.
“In February, medical group ambulance staff and the fire protection flight started talking, but they needed a place for their members to go,” said Thompson. “They wanted to see whether we could open our facility to them.”
Thompson had seen paramedics and firefighters working in the same facility before and was well aware of the benefits that collaboration could bring.
From February until the week before the ambulance crews moved into Fire Station One, MDG leadership held frequent meetings with CES leadership. The team set a goal of merging ambulance services and firefighters into one fire station by June 15.
This was an aggressive timeline for them, but the benefits were huge and forced both teams to do whatever it took to make it happen.
On Saturday, June 15, at 7:30 a.m., ambulance services began working out of Fire Station One for the first time in the history of Ramstein Air Base. Both fire and ambulance crews were excited to embark on this new relationship.
“Being embedded here, it definitely helps us to build that relationship with firefighters,” said Senior Airman Joshua Washington, 86th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician.
Now working closer as teammates, fire and medical are able to train and understand each other’s job better, making them one fluid machine.
“Since moving to the fire station, we’ve been able to train with fire more often now,” said Washington. “We’ve been out to the fire pit with them and can see how they work, where they take patients and that helps prepare us for real-world incidents.”
Reducing response times from 20 minutes down to seven is crucial when saving lives. In this endeavor, Team Ramstein collaboration helps emergency responders take care of Airmen and their families.
Ramstein is constantly working toward maintaining the title “World’s Best Wing,” and that only happens when units are ready and cohesive.
“If we’re living, working, and eating at the same facility, we all know each other,” said Thompson. “When we get out onto the scene, we’re team members, family members.”
The efforts of the 86th MDG to increase their manning to accommodate the hours increase coupled with the fire protection flight being able to find the necessary space to allow them to move in will pay great dividends to the 15,000 people that live and work on Ramstein Air Base.