Medics on a mission: 911th AES personnel conduct training in Hawaii

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Thomson
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron took the opportunity to go to Honolulu, Hawaii for some hands-on training both on the ground as well as in the air, April 22-26, 2019.

The 911th AES flyers went through on-the-ground training to practice in-air  procedures in Honolulu while the duty controllers went to get deployment training with the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Detachment 1 based out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam, Hawaii but attached to Kadena Air Base, Japan. 

The ground training for flight nurses and medical technicians consisted of litter training, burn victim treatment, and mental health patient procedures among many others.

Airmen practiced with mannequins on stretchers to simulate loading and securing patients in an aircraft in litter training, while burn treatment and mental health patient training mostly consisted of discussion and regulation review. They also discussed unregulated patients and how to handle that type of situation.

”[An unregulated patient situation occurs when] they needed to move a patient quickly within the system and there’s not enough time to put them into the patient database,” said Capt. Holly Gongaware, flight nurse with the 911th AES. “It’s pretty much a patient shows up to the plane and they say ‘you are taking them,’ and nobody else knows about it. So it’s just putting everything in place to take those patients and they haven’t been validated, basically a flight surgeon hasn’t signed off on them. It’s much faster paced and uncontrolled than we are used to.”

The flyers’ training fit nicely with the training the duty controllers did as well. While the 911th AES flyers were being trained on how to handle special cases and transporting patients, the duty controllers visited their counterparts at the 18th AE Detachment 1 because they are the hub for almost all patient movement in the Pacific Ocean region.

The training consisted of launch and recovery missions as well as how they learned about all of the paperwork and the checklists associated with each type of mission to ensure accountability of patients and resources.  

“They have a checklist of everything they have to complete for launch and recovery missions,” said Staff Sgt. Kelsey Watson, 911th AES duty controller. “They track how many patients, medical personnel, and crew are going to be on the flight, as well as all equipment that was loaned out to the aircraft.”

The 911th AES had the chance to see all of this in action when a scheduled flight with patients came in from Kadena Air Base, Japan and got a surprise when the aircraft showed up with a Pittsburgh tail flash. 

They watched as the patients were off-loaded from one of their own aircraft and were able to concretely envision the procedures they had discussed, unfolded before their eyes.

As duty controllers in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, the Airmen said that what they do on drill weekends is vastly different than what happens in a deployed environment. They agreed that coming to see the procedures done and getting hands-on training from active duty personnel was very beneficial.

“Pretty much they take care of all the moving parts,” said Watson.

Though the 911th AES did not participate in off-loading of real-world patients, they were able to see how the system worked.

“It was nice to see firsthand with actual patients,” said Senior Airman Rachel Hause, 911th AES duty controller. “It’s not something you can really do back in Pittsburgh.”

Overall, Airmen who attended the training agreed that it was a success as both parts of the 911th AES gained experience in their respective fields and learned more about uncontrolled situations. The flight to and from Barbers Point Airfield, Hawaii was used as training time as well, which started and then capped off the trip for the flyers.

“The mission is to train, but coming to Hawaii was a good opportunity because we don’t normally get these long flights,” said Gongaware. “Back home it’s usually a two- or a four-hour trainer, so having it over an extended period is more realistic.”