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Iraqi air force capabilities continue to increase

5/17/2007 - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (AFPN) -- The capabilities of the Iraqi air force continue to grow as they performed their first double patient transfer May 8 here. 

Two months the Iraqi air force conducted its first aeromedical transfer, a policeman transported from the American 28th Combat Support Hospital to an Iraqi treatment facility, two patients were transported at the same time from the 28th CSH to an Iraqi medical facility in Erbil.

This is the second all Iraqi aeromedical transfer to move patients from the 28th CSH to Erbil, and the fourth successful all Iraqi transfer to take patients to an Iraqi medical treatment facility for follow-on care.

Both of the evacuees May 8 were Iraqi soldiers from northern Iraq stationed in Baghdad who had suffered abdominal wounds and had undergone abdominal surgery at the 28th CSH.

"The Iraqi's ability to 'care for its own' is much greater than is typically reported," said Maj. Timothy Doherty, a Task Force 3rd Medical Command aeromedical advisor. "The doctors and pilots who conducted these missions are very experienced."

The mission was flown by Iraqi Col. Samir, the 23rd Squadron commander, and the patients were attended by two Iraqi lieutenants.

The transport craft was an Iraqi C-130 fitted for medical missions and patient transfers. The pilots are experienced members of the Iraqi air force, who have been flying with the Coalition Air Force Transition Team for about two years, developing processes for approving and executing aeromedical transfer missions. 

Transporting Iraqi patients from the 28th CSH to remote northern locations for follow on care can be a difficult process, due to the lack of regular medical evacuation mission routes from the 28th CSH to go beyond Balad, said Col. (Dr.) John Lammie, the deputy commander for clinical services for the 28th CSH.

"We at the CSH have been aware of the Iraqi Air Force's interest in flying these sorts of missions for some time," Colonel Lammie said. 

The May 8 process began with a joint movement request submitted by Major Doherty. Once the medical liaisons coordinated the acceptance of the Iraqi soldiers into a hospital near their home in Erbil, the Kurdish liaison coordinated for the ambulances to transport the soldiers from the aircraft to the hospital. An Army 1st Calvary MEDEVAC helicopter transported them from the 28th CSH to Baghdad International Airport, where an Iraqi ambulance team took them to the airport at New Al Muthana, the Iraqi operated portion of Baghdad International. The patients were then loaded into the Iraqi C-130 and flown to Erbil Airport where they were then transferred to two Iraqi ambulances and taken to the Erbil Emergency Hospital.

"This is an important step because it demonstrates the use of Iraqi military assets in casualty evacuation, and paves the way for more robust casualty and medical evacuation systems in the future," Colonel Lammie said. "These are crucial steps to identify and improve processes that can endure after the departure of coalition forces."

Major Doherty said the Iraqis are in the process of developing their first group of flight medics. These medics will be from the Iraqi 4th Squadron, which uses Huey IIs, and will be trained to perform medical evacuation and casualty evacuation for all Iraqi forces.

Once these medics are trained, the Iraqi air force will be able to manage the patient transfer process from beginning to end. Trained flight medics will also be a key part of Iraqi forces ability to pick up wounded soldiers from the battlefield in the same way coalition forces do now, Major Doherty said. 

(Courtesy of 3rd Medical Command Public Affairs)




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