War on Terrorism

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Medical crew takes flight, injured out of fight

by Staff Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar
U.S. AFCENT Combat Camera Team

8/17/2010 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- Five members of the 332nd Expeditionary Airlift Flight, with the help of other unit comrades, loaded a C-130 Hercules with medical supplies and equipment in preparation for picking up servicemembers at various locations throughout Iraq.

Lt. Col. Bryan Castle, the 332nd EAEF commander, scurried up a center post on the aircraft carefully holding a bundle of folded fabric. With one hand, he grasped the post while securing a carabineer and one corner of the fabric to a hook in the aircraft ceiling. He did this once more with the opposite corner of the fabric and let it fall from his hands.

The U.S. flag waving above their heads, the members of the five-person crew consisting of a medical crew director, a flight nurse and three aeromedical evacuation technicians were ready to pick up the first set of patients from Baghdad.

"Today, our load (included) one litter patient, 11 ambulatory patients and three attendants," said Maj. Marty Maddox, a 332nd EAEF flight nurse. "We had patients that had muscular skeletal problems, we had patients that had swelling in extremities and lymph node problems, and we also had some patients who were having some psychiatric problems (who) came with attendants."

As the C-130 aircrew brought the aircraft to a halt on Baghdad's flightline, it took only minutes before the medical crew and their counterparts on the ground had each patient in the aircraft and buckled in. The aircraft took off once more to pick up the last group of patients in Tikrit, Iraq, before transporting them all back to Joint Base Balad.

While the actual time in flight was little more than two hours, the amount of work for such an operation takes much more, including planning locations for supplies and equipment, and strategically locating certain patients to provide for better care on board.

Prior to loading the aircraft, Maj. Lisa Mayo, a flight nurse and MCD for the flight, briefed the medical crewmembers on the patients they would see and their medical conditions. This gave the crew the essential details they needed to know to configure the back of the aircraft.

"We place everything in a strategic location when we load the aircraft to make it more efficient to load and monitor patients," said Senior Master Sgt. Tony Staut, a 332nd EAES aeromedical evacuation technician.

Doing so allows for the patients to be comfortable and well-provided for, as well as for the crew to have enough room to operate.

The ambulatory patients sat in regular passenger seating, and the litter patient was located in the rear of the aircraft to provide room for maneuvering in the cramped space of the C-130. Depending on patient circumstances, some were placed on the left and right of aircraft near certain supplies or away from certain areas of the aircraft.

Once back on the ground at JB Balad, the patients are transferred to various locations. Some plan only to make a stop at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, while others are transported to medical treatment facilities. With the patients on their way, the medical crew reverses their initial process of loading the aircraft, taking off all the equipment and supplies.

Lastly, the crew takes down the American flag, careful not to let it touch the ground. They fold it into a tight, neat triangle, ready for it to be unfurled for the next aeromedical evacuation mission.

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