Wing med techs, flight nurses train to save lives

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amaani Lyle
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing
When a passenger aboard a KC-135 cargo aircraft was suddenly stricken with a grand mal seizure, members of the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron seemed to know exactly what to do.

Had the mock seizure not been a planned part of the squadron's training mission, it's a safe bet the flight nurses, AE technicians and health services administrators would still reach their goal: stabilize patients, save lives.

"This is our opportunity to train with medical equipment in different scenarios until it becomes second nature," said Col. Debra Parker, 459th AES deputy chief of standards and evaluations.

An integral part of the worldwide AE system, the 459th AES provides crews and operations support personnel who are trained and equipped to provide in-flight supportive medical care aboard mission-directed aircraft.

The unique AE mission requires extensive knowledge of flight operations and meticulous, updated training to support the Air Force medical mission.

The flights typically begin the same way. Maintenance crews and pilots from the 756th Air Refueling Squadron scrutinize pre-flight checklists while 459th AES review their own checklists before loading medical kits and cargo.

During the first day of the in-flight mission, the plane's fuselage temperature rose to about 120-degrees prior to take off.

The pilots, crew, nurses and med techs, seemed undaunted by the sweltering heat. Beaded in sweat, the squadron members buried their noses in thick books of refresher training material.

"We have students and teachers involved in two different aspects of the mission, said Master Sgt. Willie Epperson, 459th AES AE technician.

Sergeant Epperson, a nursing services superintendent, said he ensures that squadron personnel who haven't flown in more than 60 days participate in refresher in-flight training based on simulated patient needs. Flight nurses must participate in scheduled "check ride" flights, designed for standards and evaluations members to assess a nurse's ability to function as a flight nurse.

The flight nurses and med techs work together during simulated emergencies encompassing everything from heart attacks, to seizures to shrapnel wounds sustained down range.

While the flight focuses primarily on the 459th AES members, the pilots and crew are also an integral part of mission success.

"The aeromed technicians and flight nurses have done an outstanding job of staying current in training that will save lives," said Maj. Andre Boyd, 756th ARS instructor pilot. "As pilots, we provide the 459th AES with the platform for training, but it's their hard work and dedication that yields success."

Whether their destination is Key West, Fla., Europe, or a forward operating location in Southeast Asia, Colonel Parker said her squadron's motto rings true: "In Time of Need."

"Anytime, anywhere -- we're helping sustain the lives patients, some of who have been severely critically injured," Colonel Parker said.