Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

May 3, 2010 at 2:20am

McChord airman, others cross train with Germans

German military Chief Master Sgt Klaus Zuaihasch, a medical crew chief at Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, gives U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Gainer, commander, 455th Aero Medical Evacuation flight a tour of a German C-160 aero medical evacuation aircraft, Ap

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MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan-U.S. and German aeromedical evacuation units met to gain insight, share ideas and coordinate joint evacuation efforts at International Security Assistance Force Regional Command North's Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, April 24-26.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Gainer, 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight commander, and other U.S. aeromedical experts used the three-day visit with their German counterparts to exchange ideas on ways to improve the evacuation process in a coalition environment. 

"We are trying to establish a smoother flow of communication between all of the (aeromedical evacuation) agencies and interoperability with our equipment and airframes," said Colonel Gainer, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "We want to identify what equipment does not work well together and try to develop an understanding of how we can work together to improve the process."

According to German Col. Thomas Stahl, German Medical Task Force, Afghanistan, commander, and medical adviser to the RC-North commander, although the medical evacuation systems of the coalition countries are not very different, there are different medical policies and philosophies between forces and a common ground must be reached to ensure the best most timely medical care is given to patients. 

"We are potentially going from a few hundred to a few thousand U.S. forces in the RC-North region in the next few months," added Colonel Gainer. "With this growth, the potential for medical and casualty evacuation could rise and we want to ensure the system is in place and ready to go if needed."

Gainer explained that although the German aeromedical evacuation is outstanding, their German C-160 aeromedical evacuation aircraft has a smaller capacity for transporting patients than that of the U.S. aircraft, which means in the event of a mass transport situation, the system could become overwhelmed with patients. 

"A lot of our people are not able to speak English; a lot of other nations in the theater are not able to speak English and that can cause a problem," explained German Chief Master Sgt. Klaus Zuaihasch, a medical crew chief on the German C-160 medical evacuation aircraft. 

The type of power used to operate equipment, different medications and dosage are all issues Stahl sees as a challenge to the combined medical evacuation effort. He added that even the way patients are transported from the medical facility to the aircraft can present a challenge.

Zuaihasch said equipment standardization is a key component to creating a fluid patient transfer process where patients can go from aircraft to aircraft and hospital to hospital without compromising the level of care. "We are not able to give our litters to the Americans because they have (different) litters than the Germans, so when we hand over intensive care patients, there is added stress on the patients."

He added meetings between coalition medical teams are great because they give each country a chance to see and learn about equipment the other uses and gives both sides a chance to gain a better understanding of the other processes its patients. 

Gainer agreed, adding sometimes the process has to be coordinated through a number of channels before the mission actually leaves the ground. He explained all U.S. fixed-wing aeromedical evacuation orders come from the Combined Air and Space Operations Center, Southwest Asia. Rotary wing casualty evacuation is controlled through each regional command's patient evacuation center in which the German aeromedical evacuation teams are located along with the RC-North PEC. Sometimes communication between all agencies involved in the patient transfer process can be a challenge. 

"They work on a different telephone system than we do," said Gainer. "We are working to get some of our systems to their areas to help with information flow but it is going to take some time and the access will be limited. Until these systems are in place it is going to take a greater effort to ensure everyone knows the plan for patient movement so everyone is ready and there are no delays." 

He lauded the care at the German medical facility as, "Top notch western medicine at its finest." Gainer thinks one of the greatest parts of a deployment is getting to work with other NATO countries to share ideas and information to improve the way everyone does business. 

"I expected a great visit, but it was clear to me that we were both interested in providing the best care for patients, whether they are coalition or U.S.," said Gainer. "We are very excited about the opportunity to work together and I think both countries will benefit from the strong relationship we are developing."    

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