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Aeromedical evacuation missions: Routine is only half the story

Maj. David Bailey refills an emergency oxygen tank prior to take off on an aeromedical evacuation mission June 9 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Major Bailey is assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Maj. David Bailey refills an emergency oxygen tank prior to take off on an aeromedical evacuation mission June 9 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Major Bailey is assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Members of the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron load a litter patient onto a C-130J Hercules June 9 at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, during a bandage mission. Bandage missions require the team to travel to different bases throughout Afghanistan, pick up patients and transport them to receive a higher level of care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Members of the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron load a litter patient onto a C-130J Hercules June 9 at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, during a bandage mission. Bandage missions require the team to travel to different bases throughout Afghanistan, pick up patients and transport them to receive a higher level of care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Green gives an ambulatory patient a shot to relieve pain from his injuries June 9 on a C-130J Hercules. Sergeant Green is a reservist stationed at Charleston AFB, N.C., and is currently assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Green gives an ambulatory patient a shot to relieve pain from his injuries June 9 on a C-130J Hercules. Sergeant Green is a reservist stationed at Charleston AFB, N.C., and is currently assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grantland secures the litter onto a C-130J Hercules after loading a patient June 9 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.  Sergeant Grantland is assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grantland secures the litter onto a C-130J Hercules after loading a patient June 9 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Sergeant Grantland is assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Green gives Lance Cpl. Joshua Foster a shot to relieve the pain from his injuries June 9 on a C-130J Hercules. Lance Corporal Foster suffered injuries to his fingers during a work incident at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. Sergeant Green is a reservist stationed at Charleston AFB, N.C and is currently assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Green gives Lance Cpl. Joshua Foster a shot to relieve the pain from his injuries June 9 on a C-130J Hercules. Lance Corporal Foster suffered injuries to his fingers during a work incident at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. Sergeant Green is a reservist stationed at Charleston AFB, N.C and is currently assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nancy Hooks)

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Members of the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here train like they fight.

To them, there's no difference between home station and a combat zone.

"We see and treat the same things whether here or at home station," said Master Sgt. David Baker, the 451st EAES superintendent. "We still see patients dealing with diabetes, patients who suffer from heart attacks, and we also see non-combat related injuries, like sports injuries and vehicle rollovers,"

Their mission is to provide medical care to patients as they fly them to more stabilized care or more specialized, full-time care.

"The type of care we provide ultimately depends on the needs of the patient," Sergeant Baker said. "If we pick up a patient from the battlefield and bring him or her to the hospital, the care needed to keep the patient well in between facilities is what we provide. If we transport a patient and he or she requires more attention while in-flight, we can provide that, as well."

There are three levels of patient care the teams provide: routine, priority and urgent. Routine missions require the patient be airlifted within 72 hours.

Priority care missions require patients move to higher level of care within 12 hours, and urgent care missions require patients move as soon as possible.

Sometimes a change in a patient's condition can alter the mission category.

"A mission might begin as routine, but if the patient's condition elevates and requires a higher level of care, it could change the category from routine to priority," Sergeant Baker said.

A five-person aeromedical evacuation team, made up of a medical crew director, a flight nurse, a charge medical technician and two aeromedical evacuation technicians, supports those missions.

Injured servicemembers are either brought to Kandahar Airfield or taken to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to be treated.

If more specialized care is required, patients are flown to medical facilities sometimes as far away as Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, near Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Both Kandahar Airfield and Bagram Airfield facilities have trauma and surgical capabilities.

In the past 30 days, the aeromedical evacuation teams have seen more than 30 missions. Of those, more than 10 were either urgent or priority and most required the care of critical care airlift transportation teams.

These three-person teams are made up of a trauma doctor, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist.

"Under normal circumstances, the CCATTs care for no more than three critically-injured patients. If there happen to be more than three onboard, we will add a second CCATT to the mission," Sergeant Baker said.

But the teams care for more than just U.S. servicemembers. They also care for and treat coalition forces, Afghan National Army, police patients and Afghan civilians.

"We provide the same level of care to any patient. It doesn't matter who they are," Sergeant Baker said.

Overall, Sergeant Baker said, the teams rely on everyone for mission success.

"Mission success requires every single person doing their job," he said. "The patients depend on it."