Medical group steals show at Ramstein

Staff Sgt. M. Davis
Kaiserslautern American editor

The 435th Medical Group takes center stage at Ramstein, providing high quality health care to more than 44,000 beneficiaries within the KMC.
Leading the cast of medical professionals is Col. Chuck Cotta, 435th MDG commander.
“I’m very proud to be a part of the Ramstein team,” said Colonel Cotta, a board certified specialist in Aerospace Medicine. “It’s like the song says about Broadway: ‘if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.’ So in my mind, if you can do your job here you can really handle the job anywhere.”
The colonel said, there is one thing that’s not an act, and that’s the compassion medical group members display while taking care of patients.
“When you are in the medical business and you don’t care for people as though they are a part of your family, then you are missing something important,” he said. “I can’t say everyone in the medical field feels like that all of the time, but we try to. Compassionate care is what military medicine is all about.”
One accomplishment Colonel Cotta is very proud of since he took command of the group Dec. 20, 2002, is the part they played as the Aeromedical Evacuation hub for European Command. All patients and casualties from the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility come through the AE hub at Ramstein and are either taken care of at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center or are staged out of Ramstein to go back to the United States. Either way, the patients go through the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility as they flow through the AE system. More than 4,300 patients from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have gone through the CASF since March 2003.
Additionally, CASF members transport all AE patients off and on the flightline as the patients exit and enter the AE system; since last March, they accounted for more than 11,000 patient movements.
To accommodate the workload, the CASF was set up per operations plan in the Southside Fitness Center last March. After the war ended, the need for a CASF didn’t go away – patients were still arriving from downrange, but the fitness center was not the place to continue that mission. Colonel Cotta’s team, with considerable help from the other units on base and the strong support of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe surgeon’s office, was able to plan, design, fund and construct a state-of-the-art, temporary, modular building specifically designed as a 100-bed facility. It only took 60 days for the new building to be ready for occupation from the time the contract was signed.
The colonel is used to taking care of a large flier community. As an enlisted medic, he was assigned to a Squadron Medical Element for the 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va. – that later became the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein. Having seen military health care from “both sides of the coin,” he said he was awed by the privilege to command the 435th MDG.
“I’m absolutely blessed to be associated with this great group of men and women dedicated to military medical service,” he said. “We are an integral part of the biggest, busiest and best wing in the Air Force. Our diverse mission requires that we take care of America’s sons and daughters who defend our country while at the same time we strive to improve the overall health and fitness of our beneficiary population in the KMC. This mix of wartime and peacetime health care is what makes military medicine unique and Ramstein so special.”
Colonel Cotta concluded saying, “The challenge is to keep our focus on that dual mission of peacetime and wartime health care. It takes a lot of energy to do that and our medical group does it every day, I’m just proud to be a part of the team!”