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Enhancing aircrew care and gaining crucial insights

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Josiah Brown
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

“I get the unique experience of being embedded in the ops squadron, as opposed to being a Medical Group asset,” said Capt. Tiffany Russell, a flight surgeon assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

“It allows me to integrate with the unit, be an integral part of the operational mission, and provide care in a setting many other doctors don’t experience,” said Russell.

Capt. Russell serves as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force, demonstrating exceptional dedication and expertise in ensuring the well-being of aircrew members. With a deep understanding of the physiological challenges faced by the crew, she plays a vital role in managing their health and optimizing their performance during flights.

Her recent experience on a B-1B Lancer flight provided her with crucial insights into the experiences of aircrew, particularly the weapon systems operators, fostering empathy and enhancing her ability to fulfill her critical role.

Due to the limited number of seats on the jet, it is challenging for individuals who are not pilots or WSOs to fly. Russell acknowledges the priority given to this personnel and the requirements they must meet, making her feel exceptionally fortunate for the opportunity to fly.

Capt. Russell addresses the challenges aircrew face including air sickness, fatigue, dehydration, task over-saturation, potential decompression sickness resulting from rapid depressurization, and common musculoskeletal complaints due to uncomfortable seating.

Managing fatigue in the aircrew is a significant aspect of Capt. Russell’s responsibilities. There are instances when missions extend beyond 20 to 30 hours, and with only four seats available, augmented crews are not an option. Consequently, the crew must remain awake and alert throughout the entire duration.

“As an adjunct, we utilize medication to get them quality sleep the nights before, and other medications to keep them alert during their flight,” said Russell.

As a deployed flight surgeon, Capt. Russell assumes the responsibility of providing medical care for all deployed members. This differs from her role at the 7th Medical Group, where she primarily cares for all aviators.

“It’s definitely a change of pace, being on call 24-7 as the only flight doc around!” said Russell.

This unique experience allows her to be an integral part of the operational mission, providing medical care within the Squadron Medical Element and further integrating with the unit. Russell recognizes the value of this opportunity, as it provides her with a setting and level of involvement that other doctors rarely experience.

“Getting a BONE flight was amazing!” said Russell. “Finally being able to understand and relate to what the aircrew go through, especially the WSOs, was an unforgettable experience.”