From coast to coast: Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons train for Great Power Competition

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kendra Ransum
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dobbins Air Reserve Base’s 700th Airlift Squadron and 94th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron worked alongside Peterson Space Force Base’s 34th AES on a cross-country aeromedical evacuation flight March 22-25, 2024.

The flight was a training mission that took the Airmen on flights from Dobbins ARB, Ga., to Colorado Springs, Colo., then on to San Diego, Calif., before returning back to Georgia.

The mission of an aeromedical evacuation squadron is to provide time sensitive, mission critical en route care for patients transiting to and between medical treatment facilities. This particular training mission, a cross-country aeromedical evacuation flight, ensures that Reserve AES Airmen maintain the skills needed in a deployed environment.

According to 1st Lt. Meghan Stapleton, a 94th AES flight nurse and one of the exercise’s medical crew directors, this training flight was comprised of 14 members from the 94th AES and six members from the 34th AES. Including the aircrew, that is more than two dozen Reserve Citizen Airmen who received advanced technical training in their respective career fields, enabling them to be better equipped to generate combat power for whatever needs may arise in the future.

The mission departed Dobbins and first stopped at Peterson SFB, Colo., where a few members from the 34th AES were picked up to take part in the training mission. During this stop, the C-130 Hercules aircraft’s engines continued to whir with life during the pickup. This is what is known as an engine-running crew change, one of the many scenarios practiced by aeromedical evacuation professionals and mobility aircrew alike.

“All this training is to get us ready for the ‘what if,’” said Capt. Kay McAmis, a flight nurse from the 34th AES. “We do this to get that muscle memory going so that when [events] happen in deployed or high-stress situations, we know exactly what to do.”

Between each location, while cruising at several thousand feet in the air, AES members practiced a variety of patient care scenarios on training manikins, including tending to critical injuries, respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. Some scenarios simulated flight emergencies, requiring the AES members to administer care while wearing oxygen masks.

Most of the crew involved in this training mission are Reserve Citizen Airmen. Specifically, these members are traditional reservists, which means they may only perform their military duties a few days a month during drill periods. During monthly Unit Training Assembly weekends, an aeromedical evacuation squadron’s flight nurses and aeromedical evacuation technicians go on local flights to maintain proficiencies. In addition to shorter, local flights, aeromedical evacuation squadrons within the Air Force Reserve Command will also have Airmen train on cross-country flights at least once a month to maintain deployment readiness, technical proficiency, perform training and more.

“Some of us are nurses [in our civilian capacity], so we do this all the time,” said 1st Lt. Angelica Destefano, a 94th AES flight nurse. “However, not all of us are, so when those Airmen come for training, it’s critical for our more experienced nurses and technicians to train as well as for the Airmen to keep up with their patient care and make sure they hold onto those skills.”

During the cross country mission, the AES flight nurses and technicians were not the only ones maintaining their readiness, though. The flight crew, comprised of traditional reservists from the 700th Airlift Squadron, used this coast-to-coast flight to complete training of their own, such as preparing for less-than-optimal flying conditions.

“This one’s a little farther than we normally fly,” said Maj. Bryan Reed, 700th AS instructor pilot. “Our crew worked with issues like moderate turbulence, icing, a couple of thunderstorms and even a snowstorm while en route during this mission.”

Departing San Diego, the crew stopped in Colorado to drop off the 34th AES members before flying back to Dobbins and completing the more-than 4,000 mile trip.

Given today’s global environment, is important for every Airman to be able to maintain their job proficiency to support any challenge, anywhere at any time. From the maintainers in the hangars, to the pilots in the flight deck, to the medical crew at the back of the aircraft, our Airmen train to ensure they maintain the skills necessary to rapidly project and execute their respective missions with precision at any time.

“Our training is not going to save everybody, and we know that,” said McAmis. “But we train to do our best. We train so our Airmen have the skills and tools to give patients a chance during times of need and to give our Air Force optimally-trained, Mission Ready Airmen in today’s increasingly complex world.”