In-flight medical care key enabler to Afghan evacuation mission

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  • 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing Public Affairs
It’s not surprising the emergent, humanitarian nature of the Non-combatant Evacuation Operation out of Afghanistan created a need for medical care outside routine Aeromedical Evacuation missions.

“When we first started operations to evacuate people out of Afghanistan, there were a lot of passengers on the aircraft and loadmasters were getting overwhelmed with all the medical needs they were seeing,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christine Palmer, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight superintendent.

Loadmasters were seeing a wide-range of conditions requiring immediate medical attention. From heat-related injuries due to the extreme temperatures and extended load times to malnutrition and dehydration due to days spent waiting for flights from Kabul, the passengers were at an elevated risk level when they finally boarded. Additionally, there were the numerous pregnant women on board who now were suffering from complications involved due to the stressful environment.

In order to allow the loadmasters and other Airmen to focus on their duties as aircrew, the 10th EAEF along with guidance from Air Mobility Command and the 618th Air Operations Center, added Passenger Medical Augmentation Personnel as a compliment to the standard aircrew flight package.

Initially, the 10 EAEF built 50 fly-away medical kits specific to the needs they were seeing as well as training personnel to attend to floor-loaded travelers on Air Mobility Command aircraft. In less than 24 hours from this need was identified, they began embedding PMAP medics on every AMC flight.

 “Our squadron doubled in size from the original 90 to over 200 people,” Palmer said about the short-notice operation. “We have all different types of medical backgrounds to assist us with this mission we are currently in, the medical care of our passengers.”

The fly-away medical bags vary based on the needs of the situation. There are basic kits with necessities such as masks, electrolyte powder and airsickness bags, as well as a child’s bag packed with bottles, formula, diapers and baby wipes. In addition to these basic kits, a plus kit for each includes medical supplies capable of supporting various types of medical emergencies, to include delivering babies, Palmer explained

Capt. Leslie Green, 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse and PMAP, helped to deliver a baby aboard a Charleston C-17 Globemaster III while enroute from Afghanistan, Aug. 23, moments before landing at a Middle East staging area with an aircraft filled with evacuees.

“The baby was perfect!” Green said.. “(The baby) seemed to be doing well in this world - a little bit small, and definitely not full term, but she came out crying!”

The aeromedical evacuation PMAP medics provided life-saving care to hundreds of evacuees throughout the Afghanistan NEO. In total, they built 266 bags to care for more than 13,000 evacuees transported on 60 missions.

The 10th EAEF is a unit under the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing, an Air Mobility Command wing and tenant unit at Ramstein Air Base, and is responsible for all inter-theater airlift in the European and Central Command areas of responsibility.