130th Airlift Wing Airmen provide aeromedical mission expertise on newest Air Force refueler

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. De-Juan Haley
Two members of the 130th Airlift Wing’s 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron based at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, Charleston, West Virginia, recently traveled to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, to offer expertise and feedback on outfitting the KC-46A Pegasus for the aeromedical evacuation mission.

The KC-46A is the Air Force’s newest refueler that is also able to provide passenger and medical transport.

Lt. Col. Charles Mertz, 167th AES chief nurse, and Staff Sgt. Loy Nelson, 167th AES aeromedical evacuation technician, represented the 130th AW alongside a small contingent of aeromedical career field Airmen from across the Total Force. The team got a first-hand opportunity to work through the outfitting of the aircraft with other aircrew members and offered expert advice that may be implemented in future missions for the KC-46A.

For Mertz, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

“It’s unique,” Mertz said, “I get to help with policy and procedure, and I get to go back and teach our fellow unit members what works and what challenges that we may have on this new airframe.”

Nelson, who entered the career field in 2018, saw it as an opportunity to gain valuable experience.

“Every day is a learning curve [on the new aircraft],” Nelson said. “Getting to learn a new aircraft and being able to go back with as much knowledge that I have in my head and having the ability to inform people now will certainly be instrumental as we train for future missions in this airframe.”

Aeromedical personnel are trained to perform medical missions on C-130, C-17, and KC-135 aircraft, among others, but are able to perform their mission on any military aircraft that carries passengers.

For Mertz, the biggest takeaway was to think outside of the box and use his valuable experience and expertise to provide solutions to enhance the future of aeromedical missions in the U.S. Air Force.

“You have to solve problems and help develop new ways to solve problems that others have not thought about,” said Mertz. “You have to go with an open mind and realize that what worked in the past might not work for this new aircraft and come up with ways to solve the problem to get the mission done.”

Nelson appreciated the opportunity to provide a voice in the process along with putting his recent training into use.

“With every job, you can become complacent and things become second nature,” Nelson explained. “When you go to a new aircraft and have to explain something to someone who doesn’t know your career field or what you need for your job to run it successfully, for me to be able to think back and go through the checklist and the requirements that we need to get off the ground, it was great to have a voice in that.”

Additional aeromedical feedback sessions and training missions will take place in the future, which both Mertz and Nelson hope they can take part in. For both Airmen, the trip proved to be a once-in-a-career experience that afforded them an opportunity to provide valuable feedback for the U.S. Air Force and the aeromedical mission as a whole.