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Australians train to save lives on C-17

by Tech. Sgt. Chris Vadnais
Air Force News Agency

10/22/2007 - HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFPN) -- Five Airmen from the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, showed 11 members of the Royal Australian Air Force's Health Services Wing how the Air Force uses the C-17 Globemaster III for medical evacuations.

Medical teams use mobile equipment during aeromedical evacuation to care for the injured and sick en route to traditional medical facilities.

The Air Force's newest cargo jet, the C-17 is well suited for the AE mission. The versatile jet is also the newest addition to the RAAF's arsenal.

The training introduced the Australians to some of the support equipment the U.S. teams use, which the Aussies are also planning to buy. Updated equipment brings medics enhanced lifesaving power, but Wing Commander Sandy Riley, health training staff officer for the RAAF, said that equipment also comes with a learning curve. This training is designed to counter that.

"We've got expertise in AE, but not on the C-17," she said. "The C-17 was rapidly introduced into service (in Australia), so this is invaluable training for us to use the expertise of the (Pacific Air Forces) guys and the 18th AES."

The RAAF now has three C-17s, and will soon get their fourth. Wing Commander Riley said the aircraft is changing how AE operations are executed in her country.

"We can get to mass-casualty scenarios, our critically injured folks, in almost half the time (it takes flying) a C-130 (Hercules), so for us it's really projecting medical care forward a lot faster," she said.

Another reason medics prefer the C-17 over the C-130 is its on-board electrical power. This allows medics to bring more robust and advanced equipment, equipment that doesn't require batteries.

"We're getting more and more complex medical equipment forward to our casualties a lot faster and we're able to treat a lot more complex patients, and then bring them back home," said Wing Commander Riley.

"It's really changing the way we do business," she said.

The 18th AES instructors found the experience just as enlightening as their Australian students. Capt. Mikki Wright, the lead instructor, said the Australians do things a little differently.

"It's very interesting to see the way that they do AE compared to the way we do AE," Captain Wright said.

"For instance, they always fly with a doctor on their crew, we don't," she said. "It's just little differences like that, they have a lot of great experience to share with us as well."

Between the classroom training, the hands-on learning in the jet on the ground and the four-hour flight exercise, the training was comprehensive. Students said it was very realistic, too, aside from having a few extra people looking in on them.

"It's a large aircraft, but we still have basically three times the number of people you would normally have doing this task," said Flight Sgt. Frank Alcantara, a training evaluator for the RAAF's Health Services Wing.

"You operate with teams of five and we've essentially got 15 personnel here," he said. "The hard thing for us as instructors is to try and stay out of the picture, but at the same time try to make sure that the practices that the medics are doing are in accordance with our publications," he said.

This small investment is likely to yield tremendous results. Bolstering the RAAF's A.E. capability means one of America's strongest allies in the Pacific is now even stronger. 

Flight Sgt. Alcantara said the partnership between the U.S. and Australia has been strong since World War II, and he thinks that will continue.

"This is 'proof of the pudding,' as we say back home," he said.  "The fact is we're sharing the same technologies, the same set of training and we're doing it very successfully and very happily as well." 

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