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Airmen lead multinational effort for Iraqi bombing victims

by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Allen
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs


7/11/2007 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Airmen from the 506th Air Expeditionary Group here coordinated and carried out a multinational effort to receive and airlift 21 injured Iraqi civilians for treatment in Turkey July 8.

The civilians, ethnic Iraqi Turkmen, were victims of the July 7 market bombing in Tuz Khurmato, Iraq, which reportedly claimed the lives of more than 150 people.

Two Turkish Casa-235 medical aircraft took the injured, including three children injured in the attack, and some family members to a hospital in the Turkish capital city of Ankara for further care. 

The air evacuation was a short-notice test of Kirkuk AB's operational and logistical planning which the Airmen here passed with flying colors, said Col. Douglas Tucker, the 506th AEG commander.

"Once we received notice from the air element in Multinational Corp Headquarters that two Turkish medical aircraft had been approved to proceed from Ankara and land here, we had less than four hours to prepare and many unknowns to deal with," Colonel Tucker said. 

Little information regarding the number of wounded, the severity of their wounds, where they were located or how they would arrive was available during the initial notification. When the injured arrived at the air base by Iraqi ambulance, they were transferred to Air Force ambulances for transport to the base flightline. Once there, Airmen from across the group's diverse duty backgrounds aided Air Force medics and members of the Turkish flight and medical crews in moving the almost 30 patients and family members onto the aircraft for the three-hour flight to Ankara.

"Ultimately we fell back on our mission priorities -- precision movement of aircraft and people, providing expeditionary medical skills and combat airmanship," Colonel Tucker said.

"We did not have a contingency plan for this event, so we worked it from the basics ... getting the injured on base and to the aircraft while still maintaining security," said Maj. Tamara Mayer, the 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron commander.

"(ESFS) personnel conducted checks of the vehicles, patients and drivers; provided overwatch during the operation; and assisted in carrying litters from the receiving area to the waiting ambulances on base," she said. Safety for both the patients and the base populace was a top priority.

"Everyone was focused on ensuring these patients were safe, stable and comfortable for their trip," Major Mayer said. "The teamwork displayed was outstanding."

"There is no way any single squadron or even the AEG alone could have accomplished this mission," said Col. Tama Van Decar, the 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron commander. The support of Army Soldiers, the Iraqi medical teams who brought the casualties to the base and the Turkish army and air force members who worked side-by-side with American forces in this humanitarian effort were instrumental to the success of the response.

"It was truly a team effort on the part of this base," Colonel Van Decar said.

This is not the first time Airmen from the 506th AEG have responded to a situation involving civilians injured in terror bombings and insurgent attacks. 

The almost 900 group members assigned to Kirkuk AB eagerly offer aid and assistance when it comes to any medical event involving local nationals and non-military personnel, Colonel Van Decar said. In turn, that response expedites all facets of the group's ability to react to crisis care situations.

"In the end, from the time the first patient was cleared through security until wheels up on the ramp, the injured were safely transported and loaded for their journey in only one hour," she said. "This is a tremendous accomplishment and keeps with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing's focus to provide outstanding medical care and support to this area of responsibility. This entire venture highlights the skill, compassion and training of all the men and women here."

"The bombing was a terrible event of intersectarian violent actions taken by a small and desperate minority," Colonel Tucker said. "Helping local Iraqis with immediate medical care and assistance in logistics is directly inline with the reason we are here. The strength of our combined efforts, our ability to adapt to any given situation and our commitment to setting the conditions for stability in Iraq is how we show our allies, the people of Iraq and the world that our resolve in the war on terrorism cannot and will not be broken."



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