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How medics earn their wings

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jordan Castelan, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Soaring through the skies at 500 mph, a medical team of five work feverishly to save a life.      

Their healing hands move across a weakened body, and a reassuring voice of a technician sounds in a patient’s ear. The patient’s eyelids part as a soft green glow fills an entire field of view that slowly focuses on a pair of wings.

Those “wings” belong to “angels in the air” according to many wounded warriors whose lives have been saved thanks the expertise of aeromedical evacuation nurses and technicians.  Ensuring that these “angels” earn their medical wings is the mission of the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Training Squadron, located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

As the only training unit for the AE career field, the 375th AETS instructs all active duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen in the upgrade process to become flight nurses and AE technicians.

“We tell them all the time, it’s baby steps,” said Tech. Sgt. Erickson Cristobal, 375th AETS instructor. “In the beginning they aren’t really sure what to do on the aircraft but they’re great with their clinical skills. It’s a process of translating those skill for use in the aircraft.”

Students in their course have 26 academic days to learn how to apply their current knowledge while becoming familiar with the three most used aircraft fuselages used for AE missions. They must also complete a wide spectrum of training situations.  

Master Sgt. Elizabeth Araujo, 375th AETS flight instructor, said, “I love to see them on their first day, I love to see the fear in their eyes, the unknown. As we go through this training, as we go through one-on-ones…you see that knowledge and love for AE sink in.”

The training culminates in a check-ride, on board an in-flight aircraft, where the student is expected to successfully treat a simulated patient in varying degrees of distress. Those who successfully complete the training then prepare themselves to head out and join one of more than 30 different AE squadrons.

“What gives me that feeling of accomplishment is knowing our students are out there in the world completing that mission and are ready to respond to a [variety] of emergencies,” said Araujo. “Our course is that foundation.”

To see more photos, visit How medics earn their wings.