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McConnell aircrew perform KC-46 aeromedical evacuation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Willis
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from Team McConnell's 344th Air Refueling Squadron performed their first real-world aeromedical evacuation, April 15, 2023.

The 344th ARS delivered two children in critical condition to San Diego Hospital after initial treatment at Naval Base, Guam.

“Transporting children in and of itself, is no different than transporting normal passengers,” said Maj Dariel Baker Jr, 22nd Operations Group Readiness Chief. “However, the condition that these children were in had a huge impact on the attitude and outlook of the flight for the crew. The entire crew felt for the children and parents. There was extra motivation to put these families at ease and let them know that they were in good hands. We would be willing to go the extra mile to get them to their destination and take the next steps on the road to recovery.”

The AE mission is to provide time-sensitive, mission-critical en-route care to patients to and between medical treatment facilities. AE personnel are responsible for providing medical care to patients during air transportation. They are trained in advanced medical skills, such as critical care and emergency medicine, and they use specialized equipment to monitor and maintain the patient's condition during the flight. AE personnel also coordinate with medical facilities on the ground to ensure continuity of care for the patient.

The AE mission is critical in the military's ability to provide medical care to wounded or ill personnel in a timely manner. AE personnel may work on a variety of aircraft, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, and may operate in a variety of environments, including combat zones and humanitarian missions.

“The KC-46 is a seamless fit into the AE mission,” said Baker. “When there are high priority patients that need to move and time matters, the KC-46 is reliable, comfortable, and capable of picking up the mission organically at a moment's notice, as demonstrated last weekend. I think as more AE crews experience the KC-46, the more it will become a platform of choice.”

Care is provided by Air Force medics specially trained to operate within the global AE system.

"Aeromedical evacuation is a flying hospital; we pick up patients from all across the globe and take them home," said Tech. Sgt. Logan Hallman, 375th AES flight instructor. "I have moved patients from South Korea, Germany, and Iraq all the way back to the United States."

The 344th ARS team was able to deliver the patients 24 hours ahead of the predicted timeline.

"The best part of the KC-46 is that it is a complete improvement on the KC-135," said Hallman. "The KC-46 makes it easier for us to configure, which makes it easier for us to take care of patients and makes our overall job easier."

Two nurses and three technicians from an AE squadron can board any opportune U.S. aircraft to provide the same care in the air as they can on the ground in a hospital. The AE Airmen alongside the KC-46 demonstrated what they bring to the fight by showcasing that they can be just as effective in the air as on the ground.

“I know I speak for the entire crew when I say we were proud to be a part of the mission,” said Baker. “Proud to be able to get these families the help they needed and proud to see what our Air Force is capable of and the lengths we are willing to go to take care of our people. There were a few adversities the crew had to overcome to make the mission happen so there was definitely some relief when we made it back state-side safely. We were happy to not let them down.”