Two birds with one stone: 452nd AES, 336th ARS team up for training

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Airmen with the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., escort evacuees from a C-130 Hercules on Sept. 3.  C-130 crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock teamed up with the 452nd AES to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Airmen with the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., escort evacuees from a C-130 Hercules on Sept. 3. C-130 crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock teamed up with the 452nd AES to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas -- Emergency responders here line up to help unload injured evacuees Sept. 3.  C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas -- Emergency responders here line up to help unload injured evacuees Sept. 3. C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. -- Air Force medics tend to patients awaiting airlift.  C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. -- Air Force medics tend to patients awaiting airlift. C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Emergency responders tend to injured evacuees Sept. 3.  C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Emergency responders tend to injured evacuees Sept. 3. C-130 Hercules crews from the 50th Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., teamed up with Airmen from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., to relocate sick and injured patients devastated after Hurricane Katrina. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- Members from two squadrons, both within the 452nd Operations Group, returned from an island in the North Pacific Ocean on Sunday where they were conducting training. A KC-135 crew from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron, along with passengers from the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, flew to Guam for an exercise in which the real world outcome could mean the difference between life and death. 

"Each member of these units has initial and continual training requirements," said Lt. Col. Jeff Pennington, 452nd Operations Group commander. "Opportunities, like this one to Guam, enable the AES personnel to give required instruction in the most effective time line possible; a departure from home-station to outside the continental United States and return. Aircrews have training objectives as well that require overseas locations for the same reasons, making instructional missions like this the most effective use of our resources."

The fact that both squadrons are located minutes away from each other makes the planning aspects of joint training logistically easier. With easy accessibility to the other, the two squadrons are able to communicate and coordinate training needs, resulting in combined exercises about once a month.

"Being Reserve squadrons, we are not able to function without volunteers," said Capt.
Brian Weaver, a mission planner with the 452nd Operations Group and attached to the 336th ARS as a pilot. "The best thing about both the squadrons being here is that it makes communication easier." 

Having a joint working environment makes training like this recent mission more pragmatic. In reality, the 452nd AES performs their function on KC-135s, C-17s and C-130s. 

"We are very fortunate to have a C-17 and KC-135 squadron. Some aeromedical evacuation units do not have any aircraft assigned to their wing," said Senior Master Sgt. Helena McGhee, 452nd AES aircrew manager. "We're one of the larger aerovac units and having our own aircraft here, it just gives us more flexibility to do more training missions." 

For both squadrons, this exercise meant flying as if there were actual wounded patients aboard. It resembled real world missions the AES participates regularly in and something the 336th was doing repeatedly about a year ago and a tasking they could undoubtedly encounter again. 

"By definition, the Reserve force is a ready reserve, training continually to be ready to step in and augment the active duty force during times of high operational tempo," said
Colonel Pennington. "That augmentation occurs on nearly a daily basis with all the commitments our Air Force has worldwide during the Global War on Terrorism and other events."

The aircrew had to coordinate the configuration of the aircraft so they could strap down the litters, containing dummies, on which the AES crew would practice. The pilots received additional training by landing on Guam's unique runway, which is both long -- a benefit for the tankers, because they can take off with a larger fuel load -- and has a inimitable visual effect, sloping down to a U in the middle. They were also able to complete their requirements for data link oceanic procedures not once, but twice, on each leg of the flight, logging off over Hickam AFB, Hawaii and then logging back in for the rest of the flight to Guam. 

"Doing joint training builds camaraderie and it definitely builds rapport," said Captain Weaver, who was the aircraft commander on the flight. "It makes you just that much more proficient and familiar with the system. If our crew has done a dozen training missions with the AES, they are going to be more prepared. When the time comes and we have that mission for real, we'll all know what we're doing." 

The aeromedical evacuation squadron has two different types of missions. One is an operational mission, or real world, mission. The other is a training mission, like this past weekend. To make the training as realistic as possible, it is required to be completed while in flight.

"The bottom line is we are responsible for taking care of someone's loved one and they're dependent on us to get them back safely," said Senior Master Sgt. Helena McGhee, aircrew manager with the 452nd AES. "Aerovac is not like a regular job. It is not like a hospital where you can page and say "code blue" and have 20 other people running to help you with the patient. When you're 30 or 40 thousand feet in the air, this is all the equipment you have, all the supplies you have and this is the only crew you have, so you want to make sure you train the way you will really be doing it." 

A member accomplishment reporting sheet, which is essentially a training list, determines what functions need to be completed on the flight. In accordance with those needs, the administrative personnel at the squadron assign the dummy or human volunteer an illness or list of symptoms and physical conditions that could include amputated limbs, shrapnel wounds or projectiles protruding from his body. These are
all done with moulage to make them look genuine.

Since the mission to Guam was 13 hours each way, it allowed the aeromedical crew to complete various training scenarios. These situations can include baby delivery, simulated crash landings, rapid decompression, simulated warning door light and a laundry list of other practical or emergency situations. 

"It was awesome - 13 hours of straight training opportunities," said Tech Sgt. Paul Vought, a flight examiner with the 452nd AES who had gone with the 336th the previous week on the same training exercise to Guam. "You don't come across that very often. Sometimes you get on live missions that are going to be that long, so it was a good reminder of the necessity of teamwork and what needs to be done to be successful." 

From beginning to end both squadrons worked together seamlessly to make this training as realistic and advantageous as possible. The outcome, according to Colonel Pennington, is invaluable. 

"Performing both medical care and flying abilities require proficiency. Whether providing lifesaving skills or landing an aircraft in a low visibility condition our training requirements have proven over time to ensure that our personnel are ready for any situation."