The 459th AES holds innovative medical exercise with medical squadrons, SFS

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tim Smith
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing

The 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron recently held an innovative exercise that included its sister medical organizations like the 459th Air Refueling Wing’s Aeromedical Staging Squadron and Aerospace Medicine Squadron, and its Security Forces Squadron. The medical squadrons do not normally work together, but this exercise proved the effectiveness of their teamwork.

“The training scenario was an INDOPACOM contingent environment where security forces were needed to secure the airfields,” said Maj. Aaron Rankin, 459th AES Flight Examiner. Rankin is also the creator of the exercise. What is special about this exercise is that it wasn’t just an AES exercise. It also included personnel from the aforementioned medical squadrons as well as security forces Airmen.

“It’s based on the initiative pushed down from the MAJCOM commander,” said Rankin. “This mission is in line with the direct learning objectives pushed down from the AE enterprise, the wing commander, and the Numbered Air Force commander.”

Rankin said the exercise was designed to accomplish three objectives: 1) practice organizational interface, 2) exercise unregulated patient movement, and 3) utilize member TCCC skills (Tactical Combat Casualty Care).

In the exercise simulation, the medical teams were forced to manage injuries from what are called ‘unregulated’ patients. These are patients whose injuries and patient movement requests have not made it through the full validation process (communication between the sending unit and a theater validating flight surgeon regarding the patient), typically because the injuries are recently sustained. “All three medical units had to administer TCCC,” said Rankin.

The 512th Airlift Wing from Dover Air Force Base, Del., also participated in the exercise. The 512th provided the C-17 cargo plane used for transportation and the training platform in the exercise, and personnel from the wing’s AMDS and ASTS squadrons also participated. The C-17 flew the medical and SFS teams from here to Dover. They assisted with litter bearing and the on and offload of the simulated patients.

Also included in the exercise was a specialty team from the ASTS known as a Critical Care Air Transport Team or CCATT. Its participation was of utmost importance as teams from AES were unexperienced in training with CCATT. “The training proved effective as we (AES) had the opportunity to integrate with other AE aircrew members, CCATT, and SFS. Additionally, we trained on what members may see in a hostile landing zone and how to flex the mission to accept and treat unregulated patients,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Cowie, 459th AES Commander. “A lot of our folks do not have experience with these types of events and integrating with other teams such as ASTS, CCATT, AMDS, and SFS.”

The exercise operated as two missions in tandem, meaning, though the training on each of the two sides of the aircraft was part of the same exercise at the same time, the medical activity on each side was unrelated to the other. This method maximized the time and the space for training.

“There is a good proportion of our members that have yet to have the opportunity to work directly alongside an AE mission within a contested environment scenario,” said Lt. Col. Robert Flemming, Commander, 459th AMDS. “We were also fortunate to work alongside the 459th ASTS and Security Forces Squadron to round out the experience of patient movement and security.”

The ASTS commander echoed the benefits of this exercise.

“The excitement and energy created with these joint training exercises further strengthens the synergy between our AMDS, ASTS, and AES squadrons,” said Col. Joshua McConkey, Commander, 459th ASTS. “The more we work together, the better our relationships become. This will be a critical factor in mission success as the real-world mission can be very taxing and stressful; those relationships will give us the edge in ACE (Agile Combat Employment).”

The medical squadrons here do not work or exercise together on a routine basis.  “As new squadron commanders, we realized this shortfall and are working to change the way we do business,” said Cowie. This exercise shows the squadrons the effectiveness that results from their synergy. “We have to learn to communicate with the other types of medical professionals so it's mutually beneficial for all patients.”

In additions, the 459th SFS made this medical training exercise even stronger by providing the aircraft security the medical teams would need in a contested environment.

“Any time we get to train with other AFSCs (Air Force Specialty Code) we build both leadership and skill” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Ganus, 459th SFS, Superintendent, Programs & Readiness. “Most of our members have never supported a flyaway security operation, particularly with an aeromedical evacuation compliment. While these operations are inside our catalog of skills, they are often not the focus of training. Training more of our members intently in this flying mission has ramped up and will continue.”

The squadrons will continue to work together to push innovation that can be applied to combat, particularly in contested environments. And if faced with unregulated patients, it will no longer be an unfamiliar concept.

“You may not always land in an environment with medical capabilities,” said Rankin. “When you land, you may be the medical capabilities.”