NEWS | June 8, 2016

C-17 aircrew transports critically ill patient back to U.S.

By Airman 1st Class Kevin West Joint Base Charleston


After a five-hour-long mission delivering cargo to Biggs Army Airfield in Texas, a C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from the 15th Airlift Squadron, 437th Airlift Wing, was planning on crew rest, but a life-threatening situation intervened.

"We landed in Texas, finishing up our mission," said Capt. Rachael DeRoche, a pilot from the 15th AS who was the aircraft commander during the mission. "Then we received a call from Tanker Airlift Control Center informing us of a follow-on aeromedical evacuation back to the United States. That's all the information we had at the time."

Shortly thereafter, the Airmen from the 15th AS were informed they needed to transport a patient from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to MacDill Air force Base, FL.

"We found out we had a patient in Honduras who needed to get medically evacuated back to the United States," said DeRoche. "We had to get an Operations Group commander waiver for me to be able to fly in without ever having seen that airfield before."

DeRoche also requested and was granted a two-hour crew duty-day extension, in addition to their two- hour allowable extension based on augmented crew composition.

"For us, we were limited to an augmentation of 18 hours," said DeRoche. Every flight duty period beyond that, you can get a waiver to extend it for two hours beyond that. That's what we had to do to get back."

Additionally, other flight restrictions limited, the crew to landing at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. However, that didn't keep the crew from accomplishing the mission at hand.

"A helicopter from Soto Cano Air Base flew the Critical Care Air Transport Team from the C-17 to the hospital in Tegucigalpa where they readied the patient for ground transportation back to Soto Cano," said Lt. Col. Eric Bucheit Jr., commander 15th AS.

After returning to Sota Cano and loading the critically ill patient aboard the C-17, the flight took off and arrived safely at MacDill AFB, said Bucheit. The patient was then quickly transported to Tampa General Hospital for treatment.

"I am proud of the 15th AS crew. They overcame many tough situations and worked to successfully complete this medical emergency mission," said Bucheit.

The entire mission from Texas to Central America to Florida spanned three time zones and 19 hours and 15 minutes.

"The most important mission out there is saving human life, said DeRoche. "My crew and I are honored to have been a part of the mission that did so. It's easy to get lost in the tempo of everyday life, but its missions like these that help you realize what's important."