Fairchild, Kadena AB partner for aeromedical evacuation exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Lackey
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
A Team Fairchild 384th Air Refueling Squadron tanker and aircrew partnered with Kadena Air Base 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medics to execute an aeromedical evacuation exercise Feb. 19, at Kadena AB, Japan.

AE is a critical capability the KC-135 Stratotanker can support alongside its primary mission of mid-air refueling. Airmen of the 18th AES rely on practice sorties like these to hone their mission-essential skills.

The 18th AES maintains a forward presence in the Pacific to support medical contingencies to include the only neonatal air facility in the region. The squadron's area of operations is the largest in the military, reaching from the Horn of Africa to Alaska.

“It’s important for us to train onboard aircraft like this because of the 24/7 ‘bravo alert’ status we maintain,” said Col. John Baer, 18th AES commander. “We can send patients to Hickam AFB, Travis AFB, Lackland AFB, Andrews AFB … wherever we need to go. The KC-135 is the only [aircraft] that will get us to those locations non-stop due to its extended range.”

With a critical care mission spanning half the globe, practicing with crews that may be tasked to support domestically or in a deployed location is vital to maximize patient survivability.

“[During this exercise] we got to experience the third-part of our mission, the aeromedical evacuation scenario,” said Capt. Mark Richardson, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “We can get tasked for anything, so it’s important to be able to work with the 18th AES to see what this mission entails and what we’d be responsible for supporting.”

Fairchild Airmen met with a localized detachment of the 18th AES at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, who provided a demonstration of specialized equipment used during AE missions, including methods of securing it to the KC-135 deck, which can be fitted for cargo, passenger transport or medical support.

“It’s important to interact with all the aircraft crews so we understand each other’s functions,” Baer said. “Most of these Fairchild Airmen have never worked with AES before and we have very specific requirements. There are electrical, oxygen, storage and square footage needs on the aircraft so we can safely secure patients and have room to tend to them. We rely on the boom operators and other crew members to help prep the aircraft so we can do our mission.”

Fairchild AFB is the largest tanker base and the primary mid-air refueling provider for the Pacific Northwest; the base’s missions take aircraft and Airmen all around the world. While refueling remains a primary job, the lessons provided to these flyers during AE training may one day prove invaluable to saving lives.

“I think this was good training in case it’s encountered in the future,” said Airman First Class Tristen Lang, 384th ARS mid-air refueling specialist. “This diversified experience keeps me flexible so I know how to prepare to efficiently work with an AES team and still perform my duties as a boom operator. We have to work with different crew and passengers all the time, so learning to adapt to the unexpected and sync with them helps get the job done.”

The 384th ARS Airmen returned to Fairchild with experiences they could share with other team members in advance of the upcoming Mobility Guardian exercise, which will also feature simulated aeromedical evacuations in contested environments.

“Not everyone in a unit has the same experiences, but we can call on teammates that have experienced something we haven’t,” Richardson said. “We can share this training and help a fellow Airmen know what to expect.”

Team Fairchild Airmen and KC-135s stand prepared to handle any mission set they are tasked with and train on not just refueling, but on every function it provides to keep global missions flying and save lives.