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Med Evac flies first non-stop from Afghanistan to Germany

by Staff Sgt. Carlos Diaz
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs

3/22/2007 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNEWS) -- The first non-stop medical evacuation flight from Bagram Air Base to Landstuhl, Germany lifted off March 21. 

The lengthy three- to five-day route from Bagram AB through Kuwait to Landstuhl has been reduced to an approximate 10-hour direct flight to provide faster service to wounded servicemembers and Department of Defense civilians.
The direct flight to Ramstein AB is a huge benefit to patients, said Tech. Sgt. Chauncey Hewitt, NCO in charge of the patient administration division at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital. His job is to manage the Aeromedical Evacuation missions at the Bagram's new theater hospital.

"Patients were (usually) flown to an alternate location before going on to Europe," Sergeant Hewitt explained. "A direct line to Germany is very important, and you need that dedicated direct line of medical care for the patients."

One of those patients is Army Sgt. Maj. Roy Striley. He's the command sergeant major for the advanced individual training brigade at Kabul Military Training Center.

"This is an awesome process," said Sergeant Major Striley. "I can quickly get the medical attention I need so I can get back online with my troops."

The seasoned Soldier is a patient being treated for chest pains.

"The treatment I've received here is superb," Sergeant Major Striley said. "These missions are incredibly advantageous for the troops' morale."
An AE team and a critical care air transport team provided care for a handful of patients being medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Landstuhl, Germany.

The seven-member AE team is from the 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. The four medical technicians and three nurses on the team are responsible for patient care during medical flying missions.

The three-person CCAT team is assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight. They provide critical patient care allowing patients to be moved out of theater even if their medical condition is not stable. 

Sergeant Major striley is eager to return to his post, where he oversees a 26-member staff that helps mentor the Afghan National Army's soldiers.

"Taking care of my troops is what it all boils down to," he said.

A schedule for the AE missions allows hospital personnel to help their patients with medical needs.

"We can provide higher care much faster," said Lt. Col. Irene Soto, a nurse manager at the intermediate care ward of Bagram's state-of-the-art medical facility.

That care was evident during the mission's planning stage. The 455th EAEF was a beehive of activity as mission controllers ensured all patient information was properly annotated.

"It's a teamwork mentality and an entire team effort," said Staff Sgt. Annette Washington, NCO in charge of the AE operations team.

Sergeant Washington said their job is to ensure proper coordination for mission success, provide support and facilitate the overall process.

"We help provide the safety net for ground operations," said Lt. Col. David Johnson, 455th EAEF chief.

During the ground operations portion of the mission, the combined team of highly skilled nurses, physicians and medical technicians quickly performed its mission. Cold weather made loading patients into the aircraft even more physically taxing. Fortunately, the cargo compartment was already perfectly arranged and configured to handle the patient load.

Providing the care, attention and treatment the patients need is top priority for the AE team.

"I really enjoy taking care of the troops in the front line," said Capt. Nathan Ferguson, a flight nurse.

Saving lives is the reason we're here, said 1st Lt. Tamara Passut a flight nurse.

As the aircraft disappeared into the dark Afghan night, that last statement became a reality.

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