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Patient support pallet used for first time on KC-10

by Master Sgt. Paul Fazzini
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

10/4/2004 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- Air Mobility Command supports more than 24,000 worldwide patient movements on nearly 2,500 aeromedical-evacuation missions annually, yet none had been scheduled on a KC-10 Extender mission until now.

In a special request by South Korean officials to the U.S. State Department, a South Korean college student, paralyzed as a result of an accident while on vacation in the United States, was aeromedically evacuated from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to South Korea.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved the aeromedical evacuation.

Normally, the KC-10 Extender, which has been in the Air Force inventory for more than 20 years, is used for moving as many as 65 passengers and as much as 170,000 pounds of cargo while conducting air-refueling missions. While the 59 KC-10s in service today have the capability to support aeromedical-evacuation missions, none had been flown with the patient support pallet installed on the aircraft.

"In the past, KC-10s were used to support unscheduled aeromedical-evacuation missions. And when they were, patients were floor-loaded without the patient support pallet, a specially configured pallet used specifically for aeromedical transport that's capable of sustaining the patient during flight," said Lt. Col. Judy Daly, aeromedical evacuation division chief here.

"Because this particular AE mission was the first scheduled mission to use the (pallet) onboard the KC-10, we had to work hard to ensure the configuration and equipment were safely loaded and positioned on the aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Major, noncommissioned officer in charge of the AE allocations division.

While the KC-10 had to be specially configured for this mission, it was still the most suitable aircraft available, said Col. Charles Stiles, Tanker Airlift Control Center current operations director here.

"We took advantage of opportune airlift," Colonel Stiles said. "This particular KC-10 was already scheduled to (move Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, U.S. Forces Korea commander). We were able to redirect the aircraft to March to pick up the patient. It was the right aircraft at the right time."

The mission began at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and transitioned through Andrews AFB, Md., where General LaPorte boarded, and the patient support pallet was loaded. From there, the mission continued to Offutt AFB, Neb., and on to California where the patient and his mother were picked up.

General LaPorte escorted the passengers, something he said he felt was very important to the family.

"This is America's present to the [South] Korean people," General LaPorte said, referring to the South Korean Chu Sok holiday, an important holiday focusing on family and cultural heritage.

The mission ended after landing late the following evening. Three of the Air Force attending medics, who were part of the critical-care air transport team, accompanied the patient to a hospital in Seoul.

All those involved in the mission instinctively worked together to make the mission a success, said the senior AE member onboard the aircraft.

"We are proud . that our military has the aircraft and the capabilities to make a mission like this happen," said Maj. Nancy Mikulin, medical crew director. "I don't know too many other air forces, if there are any, which can do this. This was a long-range mission that required air refueling. Everyone, active duty and Reserve alike, worked together to provide the patient the critical care he needed."

And that care did not go unnoticed by the patient's mother.

"(She) expressed gratefulness every time she spoke to a crewmember," Major Mikulin said. "She seemed overwhelmed the U.S. government would do this for her family, especially during a [South] Korean holiday . that celebrates family ancestry and life."

With the mission accomplished, the KC-10 has proven itself worthy of future AE missions.

"Now that all the aircraft waivers and paperwork required to use the (pallet) on the KC-10 are completed, the aircraft becomes a viable asset aeromedical evacuation mission planners can tap into," Sergeant Major said. "I'm confident this mission was the first of many to come." (Courtesy of AMC News Service)

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