Tag Archives: aeromedical evacuations

Libyans, Airmen: the Bond of Freedom

By Maj. Michael Meridith
18th Air Force

As members of the greatest military on the planet, we recognize and honor those who are willing to make great sacrifices in the cause of freedom. On Saturday in the same place that the American republic was born, I was privileged to come face to face with a group of Libyan fighters who had made those sacrifices.

At the request of the Department of State, the Secretary of Defense had directed two medical assistance missions in Libya. In the first mission, four wounded fighters were transported to medical facilities in Europe by a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 172nd Airlift Wing out of Jackson, Miss., carried out the second mission, landing at Boston Logan International Airport in the midst of a massive winter storm after a nearly 13-hour flight from Libya. As the senior Air Force representative sent to the location, I had the honor of greeting the flight.

The Libyan Transitional National Council had requested the transport of fighters to American medical facilities because their injuries could not be treated in Libya. This is a testament to the esteem in which American medical professionals are held. This esteem holds true for the unsung aeromedical evacuation (AE) professionals that ensured the safe, comfortable transport of these wounded warriors.
U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation

I saw that esteem firsthand in the emotional hugs and handshakes shared between the Libyans and the AE crew as the patients departed. In those farewells I saw more than just a physician-patient relationship; I saw respect between two groups of individuals who had made the conscious decision to put everything on the line for the cause of freedom.

We often speak of how air mobility “answers the call” and “delivers hope.” AE crews are hard at work across the globe every single day, answering those calls and saving lives, whether thousands in the case of major humanitarian crises or the 22 that debarked the aircraft at Logan. These professionals will humbly tell you, as one did that evening, “we’re here to help out … that’s what we’re called to do. We bring the guys back safely.”

While their modesty does them credit, it’s important to recognize the contribution of AE professionals is far-reaching. In fact, these experts have conducted more than 179,000 patient movements and 36,000 sorties since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19, 2003. That averages out to nearly 12.4 potentially life-saving missions a day.

While no one can predict exactly what the future of Libya holds, I wonder what the wounded warriors will think about America when they return home. I don’t doubt they will be thankful for the care they received, but I wonder if they will also recognize that at least part of that care was provided by warriors like themselves … linked by a common bond: the willingness to sacrifice for freedom.

Photo: U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation crews, along with local emergency medical personnel, assist Libyan fighters off of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Boston Logan Airport Oct. 29. At the request of the Department of State and directed by the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. military is supporting U.S. and international medical assistance efforts in Libya. Specifically, the U.S. Air Force transported 22 wounded Libyans to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem, Mass. (Photo by Walter Santos)

Volcano, schmalcano… Air Force keeps missions from Europe movin’

By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Despite Mother Nature’s volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupting air travel for thousands, quick thinking and flexibility kept the Air Force’s crucial aeromedical and cargo airlift missions moving.

On April 15, a weather forecast, from the Air Force Weather Agency’s 2nd Weather Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., showed the eruption could affect flights across much of Northern Europe to include Ramstein Air Base, Germany, which happens to be a transition point for wounded warriors coming from Afghanistan and Iraq.  Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany is normally where the wounded would be treated and rest for a couple of days before heading on to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.090417-F-1830P-186

Air Mobility Command’s 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., took immediate action by moving out cargo and tanker planes from Germany to Naval Station Rota and Moron Air Base in Spain, a good distance south of the enveloping ash clouds about to snuff out all air travel in northern Europe. Most importantly, this decisive diversion enabled the aeromedical evacuation missions to continue — ensuring the wounded warriors were still able to get to the U.S. with little disruption.

During a DoD Blogger’s Rountable held April 21, Air Force Brig. Gen. Randy Kee, vice commander, 618th TACC, discusses in detail the diligent maneuvers that occurred in order to overcome the impending “dark cloud” and continue with the joint-force missions supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn (of Operation Iraqi Freedom)

“Since April 15, the missions that had to be re-routed or adjusted around the ash cloud have delivered 23,268 passengers and nearly 7,000 tons of cargo, ensuring our worldwide commitments continue to be met, including support to Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. These figures represent more than enough people to fill Madison Square Garden and 175 fully loaded semi trucks – said General Kee, Vice Commander, 618th TACC.

“But when we’re talking about keeping cargo moving to the warfighter or moving our wounded warriors to the care they need, we’re going to do whatever it takes to safely keep the mission moving,” said General Kee.

The flight routings took longer, adding about 1.5 additional flying hours, as well as additional operating costs and more fuel usage.In addition to the diversions to Spain, additional support was necessary at both Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan and at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

While the dust settles over the European sky, missions from the temporary southern locations will continue.