RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany –
When they’re fighting for your life at 25,000 feet above ground, nothing is routine.
Reserve Airmen from the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron conducted medical training inside a C-17 Globemaster III, Jan. 13-15, 2017, while an aircrew from the 300th Airlift Squadron flew six pallets of humanitarian aid to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
The aid is part of ongoing humanitarian efforts bound for northern Iraq. The 315th AES were able to conduct their training in conjunction with those relief efforts.
“Working with the flying squadrons creates a unique opportunity for our medics to train in the air and still supporting the mission,” said Master Sgt. Johnny Gomez, 315th Aeromedical Evacuation medical technician. “Our job takes place in the air, from training to real-world.”
Gomez added, “Any chance we have to work with our mission partners is a rewarding experience.”
In-flight training provides unique opportunities that ground simulation cannot recreate. The majority of the participants in the training were traditional reservists, with extensive medical backgrounds in their day-to-day lives.
However, a lot can happen in the air. For example, stable patients are still unpredictable in flight and within moments, can go from seemingly fine to experiencing cardiac arrest with little to no warning. It’s up to the flying medics to implement their training to preserve the lives of potential patients.
Even though many of the Citizen Airmen attached to the 315th AES excel in their full-time positions in hospitals across the Lowcountry, this type of training is critical to the Air Force’s aeromedical evacuation mission.
“The stresses of flight, from changing altitudes to in-flight turbulence, provides real-world experiences for our medics,” said Tech. Sgt. Maria Wesloh, 315th AES mission crew coordinator. “Many of the scenarios they’re facing while training are based on real-life events we’ve faced before.”
According to Wesloh, expecting the unexpected comes with experience, and the odds of overcoming the unexpected comes with training.
“Our hope is that the flying medics will learn what to do the first time within a training environment,” said Wesloh. “That way, if the real thing happens… they’re ready.”
Many active participants are newer Airmen, with less experience than their observers. For them, staying current isn’t just about medical checklists, it’s about flying, too.
“It’s my first time in the air with many of the Airmen on this mission,” said Wesloh. “But, they are doing a wonderful job, and they’re all very eager to learn.”
During training, simulated patients are carried onto pallets for initial observation. Their wounds range from heart attacks to battlefield injuries. From there, various medical scenarios are administered.
However, during these training events, observers use cards with situations written on them for the medics to take on. Prior to this event, the participants are unaware of what situations will be thrown their way.
“When you’re in the moment, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed,” said Senior Airman Brittany Korg, 315th AES aeromedical technician. “The noise of the engine, the cargo crowding your space or perhaps you are unable to locate a medical utensil. But, take a moment and breathe. Trust yourself, and the people around you and just take it one step at a time.”
Korg added that it’s okay to make mistakes on training missions, because training helps the team get better.
“It’s the observer’s job to set the medics up for success, not failure, through mentorship and by giving them unexpected situations to overcome,” said Gomez. “It’s important to identify trends in how our medics respond during emergency training. If we’re able to identify these trends in a safe environment, it’ll help eliminate bad habits during a real-world response.”
“Any time spent in the air is beneficial for us,” said Korg. “Whether it’s a day trip or a longer mission (like to Germany and back) there is always something to learn. The biggest benefit of longer trips is how they provide more opportunities to train in the air.”
Last year, the 315th AES was named the 2015 Air Force Reserve Command Outstanding AES Unit of the Year.