Bring em’ back!
Story by TSgt Gregory Brook on 08/16/2019
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. – It’s early. So early it is still dark outside. Fog lays heavy on the Minnesota grass. In a building not too far away, phones start ringing, people wake up and get themselves together quickly.
In a few short minutes, a room full of people is getting briefed, a cacophony of voices relaying vital information to one another. People grab kits and pre-packed bags of gear. Everyone helps each other. They are all moving towards a waiting C-17 Globemaster III with a single purpose in mind, to “bring em’ back”. This is the motto of the aeromedical evacuation teams training together to perfect their skills and fulfill their mission.
Reserve Citizen Airmen from across the aeromedical evacuation spectrum in the Air Force Reserve and NATO partner nation troops will spend two weeks in August at Minneapolis Air Reserve Station, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., training together and in concert with various airframes during the Patriot Warrior exercise here.
Fort McCoy, Wis. serves as the primary exercise site, while Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. and Minneapolis-Saint Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn. act as support and staging locations.
“I think the exercise is a great opportunity to practice what we may be called to do in the real world one day,” said Lt. Col. Amy Sanderson, commander of Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Patriot Warrior 2019, and commander of the 908th AES at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. “Mistakes can be made and learned from and no lives are at stake. We can teach, share ideas, be stressed a little as to simulate how it would possibly be real world’.”
Over the two weeks, these airmen will work on fundamental and advanced skills in austere environments, working together with both aeromedical evacuation care managers and critical care air transport teams to increase their own skills and learn new techniques to increase the survival of injured service members overseas.
“The purpose of Patriot Warrior, from my perspective, is to practice what we would do in potential real life situations,” said Tech. Sgt. Kristin A. Frederick, aeromedical evacuation technician, 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Minneapolis-St. Paul ARS, Minn. “For the Air Force to see what is effective and what needs work in our operations and patient transportation. It’s a way to test our capabilities. This exercise is important because it can help to implement positive change within our operations, and provide an opportunity to give members experience in roles they could be deployed into.”
The mission sets the teams here are perfecting have profound consequences for both deployed service members and their families back home. Often, the doctors, nurses and technicians have personal reasons for volunteering their time and service to this vital and demanding mission set.
“Without this care provided by AE or CCATT, I believe we would have more casualties of war,” said Sanderson. “I have two sons serving – one in the Navy as a fighter pilot, and one serving in the Air Force with Security Forces. I am thankful to know if anything should happen to them while serving that they have access to this care and transport if ever needed. I’m hopeful they will never have to, yet I’m thankful that I know if they should ever need it they will be cared for expeditiously.”
The main purpose of the exercise is for each Reserve Citizen Airman to enhance their own abilities. Starting from a bare bones location, service members stand up a fully operational base equipped with mobile hospitals that routinely accept simulated patients flown in from various locations on military aircraft.
“Each role of the AE crew is important in carrying out the mission,” said Sanderson. “There are two flight nurses and three AE techs for a basic crew. Depending on patient load and patient acuity, the crew may have to be augmented by the Chief Nurse in order to have enough members to care for the patients crews transport.”
Sanderson said that she was proud to provide that “care in the air”, allowing the patient to receive the individual care they need while addressing their other needs that come up during flight.
One of the benefits of an exercise like Patriot Warrior is that it provides airmen a chance to work in other duty positions on the team. This allows them to learn more about the critical work that they do and enables a more robust mission achieving capability within a team.
“My role as one of the duty controllers in the aeromedical evacuation operations team plays a major part in disseminating information about missions AE are tasked with,” said Frederick. “I am responsible for establishing communication, determining which crews to alert, ensuring we have crews legally available for missions, tracking equipment status, and taking care of administrative responsibilities here.”
Ultimately the goal is always to “Bring em’ Back.”
“I feel a strong sense of belonging and pride in being a part of AE in the USAF,” added Frederick. “I think AE is one of the best jobs in the Air Force, and appreciate the opportunity to learn about the management of AE from the ground as an AEOT member.”
The Patriot Warrior exercise helps them do just that, by demonstrating these Reserve Citizen Airmen’s mission set and capabilities to the wider Air Force and allowing them to perfect their wide range of skills from across medical professions.
“Is it important for the AE to show the Air Force our capabilities,” said Sanderson. “It is an awesome opportunity for AE and CCATT to work together and learn from each other’s capabilities. We each have the same goals and mission, and to work together for the better of those in our care is vital.”