On top of the world: Ramstein AE crew responds north of Arctic Circle

by Capt. Erin Dorrance
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

***image1***Thule Air Base, Greenland, is the Air Force’s northernmost base, which is located 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The base is quite secluded and a medical emergency can be a nightmare for anyone stationed at the base.

But that nightmare is now a distant worry for the people stationed at Thule AB as a C-17 Globemaster aircrew from Dover Air Force Base, Del., and 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron personnel from Ramstein flew an Airman to the U.S. for medical care Dec. 7.

“When you pull alert here at Ramstein, you never know where you will end up,” said Capt. Bryce Vanderzwaag, 86th AES flight nurse and medical crew director for the flight. “Regardless of where we go, we are always sent to help fellow servicemembers and their families.”

The seven-hour flight from Ramstein to Thule included medical personnel from the 86th AES and a critical care air transport team from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, said Captain Vanderzwaag.

Upon landing in Thule, the team quickly loaded the patient and continued the five-hour flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Due to the quick response, the patient was off-loaded in the states for proper care and treatment.

“Although we’d rather not ever have to (aerovac) anyone, it’s good to know that we have the capability to do it on a moment’s notice, and when the need arises, that one individual becomes the Air Force’s top priority,” said Maj. Brian O’Connell, 3rd Airlift Squadron, Standardization and Evaluations assistant chief and aircraft commander for the aerovac flight.

Captain Vanderzwaag said he could tell how thankful everyone on the base was when they arrived at Thule.

“It seems to be a really tightly-knit base,” he said. “The base commander and a lot of people came out to send off the patient.”

The aerovac mission proved that the Air Force is not only dedicated to caring for its Airmen, but also highlighted the versatility of its aircraft.

“This is what makes the mission of the C-17 so great,” said Major O’Connell. “Seventeen hours earlier we were on the ground in Baghdad unloading armored vehicles, which will help keep our Soldiers and Marines protected and hopefully save lives.

“Twelve hours after landing back in Germany from our combat mission, we were on our way to Greenland to get one of our Airman vital medical care back in the states.”
Due to a combined effort of Airmen across the Air Force, the Thule AB patient was treated and released from a medical facility in the U.S.