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446th Reserve medical squadrons work side-by-side

When Aeromedical Staging Squadron meets Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron

A 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron team carries a patient onto a C-17 Globemaster III as part of training when the flight from McChord stopped in Moses Lake Dec. 8. Photo Credit: Senior Airman Madelyn McCullough

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Training on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, McChord Field got even more realistic this past weekend.

Sunday, Dec. 8, the Aeromedical Staging Squadron (ASTS) and Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES) executed a new level of training in order to maintain their mission qualifications. The two units, which work together routinely downrange, are tightly tethered. The staging unit triages patients for flight out of the deployed location and then the aeromedical unit flies the patients to locations for further care.

AES and ASTS typically conduct training independently, this most recent outing allowed them to work together and simulate what actually happens in a real-time, critical situation when lives are at stake.

"Over the past eight or so years we got away from training together and we realized we were doing this in the real world ... so why aren't we training this way?" asked Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Lapham, Operation Flight superintendent with the 446th ASTS.

"We are responsible for patient maintenance - we make sure they are stable enough to get on the plane and survive the flight, which can be lengthy," Lapham said, adding that the ASTS typically oversees patients for a maximum of 72 hours. "We can do the basics, of course, but if they need something further or extensive they are most likely not safe to fly anyway."

Meanwhile, the AES handles the operational side of the mission, from ensuring there are supplies and the plane is stocked, and AE medical crew handles patient care while in flight.

"They're patient staging and we're patient movement - so they know what they do on the ground and we know what we do in the air," explained Lt. Col. John G. Olmedo, 446th AES, Operations Flight commander. "Yet we rarely connect the two together outside of a deployment. So we are matching up our skills on the flightline and giving the squadrons the chance to work together."

>>> Maj. Medori Hill, 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurs / photo credit: Senior Airman Madelyn McCullough

The hope is the that the new joint approach to training will improve the 446th's readiness significantly, which could then potentially increase the survival rate for wounded U.S. servicemembers. However, the 446th AW doesn't have much room for improvement, considering they were awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award earlier in 2013 and have received that designation five other times.

"Because the training is already so fantastic with the 446th - this adds to that and allows us to interface with the AES and get more hands on experience. We can get it flawless through this practice," Lapham added.

"The catalyst to do this was play it like it's real ... which will give us a chance to do it better when it counts," Olmedo stated. "Practice when it isn't real so that we don't make mistakes when it is."

One of the main benefits of this integrated training was allowing the units to not only interact but to load a real aircraft, using medical dummies with realistic patient information, all while keeping an eye on the clock in order to work around the flight schedule.

"McChord has an active flightline and schedule, so if that is going on during our training, we'll feel the sense of urgency and have to be aware of all the necessary safety measures. This is not like a simulation," said Lapham.

Moving forward, the plan is to organize the trainings and have the joint exercise become a monthly event, according to Olmedo. Eventually, the hope is to include every single moving piece of these operations, not just the AES and ASTS.

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