MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. - The sun beat down on everyone on the flight line as hot wind whipped through the area, unimpeded by the wide open space. A typical day at the March Air Reserve Base flight line, but the activity on the tarmac on April 28th, 2017 was anything but typical. Two aircraft with their engines still running were parked uncharacteristically close together as crews from each aircraft switched airplanes. This ‘hot swap’ was one of the procedures the Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES) were practicing during the 2017 Sierra 3 exercise, an exercise both logistically challenging and extremely rewarding.
“The Sierra 3 exercise helps us understand our capability and readiness. Our mission is to evacuate wounded and injured from the field, so time is extremely important. From alert to launch, we try and practice all aspects of our mission so that we can become better as a team” said Maj. Aldrin Poblete, OIC, 452D Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team.
The 452D AES hosted the Sierra No. 3 training event to showcase and integrate 5 AE Reserve Squadrons in flying operations on 3 different aircraft to include the C-17, C-130 and KC-135. During the event, the AES stood up an Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT) and provided valuable support training for all visiting AE Squadrons while supporting the flying mission. In addition to the AE mission they also utilized a Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCAT) and a visiting Flight Surgeon which were all included in the flying operations and training. Overall, the exercise saw in excess of 85 visiting and local reservists from multiple squadrons and bases.
“Our command center is the brain if you will. It’s comprised of members from all different AE units,” Major Poblete added. “We try to integrate all units in every team so that we are working in a real world environment, full of individuals from all over.”
The overall success of the training event was contingent upon the interconnectivity of all the squadrons involved. Team cohesion was a paramount goal during every stage of the exercise, from inception to completion. Advanced command teams worked well ahead of the exercise date to ensure all communication issues were mitigated as much as possible.
“It was hard to get it all together because there are so many moving parts during an event like this,” said Lt. Col. Philip Conmy, Chief Nurse, 452D AES. “One of our main focuses is keeping visibility on operational risk management. “In an austere location, we all need to be on the same page to keep everyone safe.”
A resounding the success, Sierra 3 indeed showcased the lifesaving capabilities our AES personnel bring to any austere operation. All personnel involved agreed that the event was a stepping stone in the right direction towards a ‘one team, one fight’ mentality.
“Seeing the crews from different squadrons work together really gives us a sense of accomplishment. We enjoy the challenge and feel that much more prepared for any real world scenario,” Maj. Poblete said. “Our airman, especially our new ones, are trained to a very high standard. The harder we train, the more we learn to coordinate our people, the more we can be flexible and efficient.”