Mobile ICU improves care for wounded troops being transported

Mobile ICU improves care for wounded troops being transportedAL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS)

The mission of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here is to provide medical care for wounded service members, while flying them to locations where they can receive further treatment.

The unit provides this service to U.S. military members, as well as coalition partners, supporting Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel during aeromedical evacuations.

In 2015, more than 1,000 patients with a variety of injuries including gunshot wounds, brain trauma and blast injuries were flown out of the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility by the squadron. The unit’s Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), which consists of a doctor, nurse and therapist, provides care for the most critically wounded and has treated 10 service members since Jan. 1.

“We are basically a mobile intensive care unit,” said Master Sgt. Illeana, a 379th EAES respiratory therapist from Maryland. “We have everything we need to give people the most definitive patient care, just like they would receive in an ICU at a hospital.”

This mobile ICU consists of a five-member AE crew, a CCATT and about 1,000 pounds of equipment and supplies, including ventilators, medication, cardiac monitors and bandages. A team of medics configure an aircraft, usually a C-17 Globemaster III or C-130 Hercules, to serve as a specific mission’s ICU.

Once the aircraft is configured to support the AE mission, the AE crew loads the equipment into the aircraft and prepares to receive patients.

“Our basic aeromedical crew is able to provide outpatient and medical-surgical inpatient services to the people we transport,” said Lt. Col. Russel, the 379th EAES commander. “We add specialty care teams to this basic complement to enhance in-flight capabilities. Our critical care air transport teams provide intensive care treatment such as advanced ventilation management, trauma resuscitation, medical stabilization and other therapies typically found in any hospital ICU.”

Illeana said being a part of the CCATT is very rewarding.

“For me, it’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever done,” she said. “Bringing our warriors back to their families and loved ones; being a part of that is very special.”

Illeana has been a respiratory therapist for nine years and is currently serving on her third deployment, the first as an AE crew member. On her first AE mission to Afghanistan she helped evacuate three Soldiers wounded by an explosion.

“When we arrived to pick up the Soldiers,” Illeana said, “the Soldiers and their comrades were so happy. They knew they were getting help, they had hope they would see one another again and they never doubted that.”

Caring for service members in what is likely their worst moments is a challenging and humbling experience, said Capt. Heather, a 379th EAES flight nurse from New York, who has flown on about 50 AE missions.

“On my last deployment to Afghanistan, we were called out on an urgent mission after a bombing,” she said. “One Soldier couldn’t see and he knew his supervisor, who was also wounded in the blast, was on the plane.

“We cared for him and kept him informed of everything that was going on, provided him with pain medicine and all he wanted was for someone to hold his hand,” she continued. “He couldn’t see anything and didn’t know what was going on, so I held his hand for about five hours during the flight to Germany.”

Saving lives and returning America’s warriors to their families is the reason many AE professionals serve.

“That’s why we do this,” said Lt. Col. Patrick, a 379th EAES nurse. “It’s hard to put into words. We often look back on our missions and reflect on what we did. What we think about the most is, because of what we did, someone will get to go home and see his or her family.”

Before deploying to Al Udeid Air Base, Patrick participated in an air show at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. During the event, he manned a CCATT display when two service members, both amputees, visited him.

“One of them was carrying his daughter with his prosthetic arm,” Patrick said. “I didn’t know him, but someone else took care of him and he was able to come back and be there for his little girl. How much better does it get?”

Editor’s note: Last names were removed due to security concerns.

Cody meets with Airmen during NORAD, USNORTHCOM tour

Cody meets with Airmen during NORAD, USNORTHCOM tourPETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody met with Airmen from here and nearby bases as he toured North American Air Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command Feb. 10-12.

The top enlisted Airman held two all calls at Peterson Air Force Base to thank Airmen and NCOs, and to answer their questions ranging from performance reports to retirement plans.

He said he was impressed at the questions posed to him at both enlisted calls, citing his overall impression of today’s enlisted corps.

“We have amazing men and women serving in our armed forces,” he said. “When I get to spend time with Airmen, I see they’re dedicated, they’re proud, they’re motivated and they’re certainly very aware of what’s going on in the geopolitical environment, the instability that exists around the globe, and their role in ensuring our nation’s security.”

After speaking with the enlisted corps, he met with Fleet Master Chief Terrence Molidor, the NORAD and USNORTHCOM command senior enlisted leader, and toured the commands’ operations center.

“This was a great visit,” said Molidor, a 32-year Navy veteran. “I spoke to him as I do each service’s senior enlisted and said what we need from the Air Force is to continue sending us quality Airmen. Also, as the senior enlisted for the command, if we have a service-related issue we can’t address with my senior enlisted advisors, he’s the one I go to in order to get the final word, so just getting another chance to meet with him was helpful.”

This isn’t the first time the Air Force’s top enlisted leader has been to the command. He said he’s familiar with the unique mission sets of the command and the importance of defending the homeland.

“I certainly think 9/11 still weighs heavily on those who continue to serve,” Cody said. “There’s no lack of appreciation and understanding what those events signaled to our nation and how we have evolved from that time. I certainly believe our top leadership in Washington, D.C., clearly understands the importance of this command and what you do every day to secure our nation.”

He also gave thanks to the Canadian and interagency counterparts working shoulder to shoulder with U.S. service members, stopping to present recognition coins to four U.S. and one Canadian enlisted member for excellence.

“We can’t do it without the partnership,” Cody said. “We all understand that. We have common interests here to be as effective and as responsive as absolutely necessary we need to be a team.”

Overall, Cody said today’s enlisted force is the best trained, most educated and most experienced fighting force the world has ever known.

“They step up to the plate every single day to ensure the security of the nation and they will ensure the generations that follow in their footsteps are even better than them,” Cody said. “They’re just a dedicated great group of people and our nation should be extremely proud and grateful they have the watch.”

New co-chairman joins Air Force’s retiree council

New co-chairman joins Air Force’s retiree councilJOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS)

A new co-chairman will share the head of the table at this year’s Air Force Retiree Council meeting in May.

Retired Lt. Gen. Stephen Hoog, who left active duty in October, succeeds retired Lt. Gen. Steven Polk as council co-chair with retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley.

The co-chairs serve as personal advisers to the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force on all issues regarding retirees and their families. Hoog’s appointment was announced by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III.

Meeting at the Air Force Personnel Center, the council receives briefings on today’s Air Force structure from senior members of the Air Staff and other Air Force elements. This information helps the 19-member panel address issues submitted from 100 base-level retiree activities offices worldwide. Subjects range from health care to publication of the Afterburner newsletter to various benefit and entitlement enhancements. Recommendations on key issues are forwarded to the Air Force chief of staff and subject matter experts.

Hoog attended a council orientation in early February where he was able to meet with Polk and McKinley to discuss his new role and responsibilities.

“As a fairly new retiree myself, I am impressed with the support and services the Air Force strives to provide its retirees, their families and surviving spouses,” Hoog said. “I’m looking forward to serving on the council beside others who care deeply about our retiree family.”

A native of the Bay Area in California, Hoog is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours, including 181 combat hours over Bosnia and Iraq.

During his tenure as co-chair, Polk was instrumental in bolstering commander support for base-level retiree activities offices and reviving the hard-copy mailing of the Afterburner for retirees and annuitants without Internet access.

“It was an honor and a privilege to serve with each council member and with CMSAFs (Gerald) Murray and McKinley professionals all and still serving,” Polk said. “I’m proud of the work and accomplishments we handled as a team, and I’m grateful for the strong support of (former CSAF) Gen. Norton Schwartz and Gen. Welsh. I’m especially proud of the enthusiastic RAO volunteers worldwide who continue to serve our Air Force every day.”

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s a drone

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s a dronePETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS)

Due to popularity and past holiday sales, the amount of drones has soared.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimated more than one million drones were sold during the year-end holiday season. With that many new drones added to existing numbers, federal, state and local officials are concerned about safety, security and privacy related to these remotely piloted aircraft.

Some of the biggest concerns are drones being used in close proximity to aircraft, personal privacy and terrorist attacks. There are numerous accounts of commercial jets reporting drones in close proximity and even accounts of explosives and radioactive material loaded into them. The overall message is to think about where the drone is flying and act accordingly.

“(Drones) are highly capable machines and can be abused. Privacy is a basic right and some people feel that their rights are being violated should the (drone) have a camera,” said Victor Duckarmenn, the 21st Space Wing Program Management Division quality assurance manager and operations security expert. “The rules are quite specific in the use of drones and permissions, certifications and registration are for the public good.”

In 2015, the FAA released rules for hobbyists operating drones. A drone must be operated within sight of the remote pilot during daylight hours. This rule allows for corrective lenses worn by the pilot, but not the cameras on the craft itself. The aircraft cannot fly higher than 400 feet in altitude and must be operated at less than 100 mph. They have to give way to all other aircraft and local air traffic control must be notified when drones are operated within 5 miles of an airport.

The rules also say operators must not fly over sensitive areas and structures, such as power facilities, prisons and water treatment plants and remain 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.

All drones that are heavier than .55 pounds must be registered and documents displayed upon request. Drones between about a half a pound and 55 pounds in weight must be registered and the FAA has a website to help in taking care of that requirement.

“The most important thing to remember is your training in safety,” Duckarmenn said. “There is available drone flight training and annual shows where you can pick up pointers from experienced flyers.”

The terrorism concerns are serious. In 2011, CNN reported that the FBI arrested a man who was trying to use a model fighter jet loaded with explosives to attack places like the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. In another report from last year, the news network said a drone containing a small amount of radioactive cesium was found on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office.

More recently, the Agence France-Presse reported from the DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas that a demonstration showed a drone could be loaded with equipment to break into wireless networks.

“Remember the system is wireless and can be commandeered. Firmware on these devices has not evolved as much as its popularity,” Duckarmenn said.

He recommends joining local drone clubs to learn about, and stay up on, rules and to avoid making legal mistakes.

For more information, check out the FAA website or the Small UAV Coalition website.