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NEWS | Nov. 3, 2008

CAFB Airmen speed delivery of lifesaving medicine

By Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Airmen are deployed across the world to work together with other Airmen and other military services where they are needed most. Regardless of job or location, Charleston Airmen are in the fight, too.

Coordination and hustle between several American military agencies here enabled a lifesaving package to reach an Iraqi snakebite victim and save a life Oct. 15 here.

The Army Medical Materiel Center Southwest Asia staff received an urgent request for anti-venom to help a young Iraqi woman who was in critical condition, and the staff immediately turned to members of the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron for help.

"We have a very strong partnership with the 8 EAMS and we simply could not do our mission without their assistance," said Army Maj. Jennifer Allouche, the chief of support operations at the center. "I know that when I call the 8 EAMS team for assistance, they will make it happen 100 percent of the time. They have never said no or told me they could not support our requirement."

Master Sgt. Todd Lunge, the 8 EAMS superintendent of air freight, received the call and immediately started checking flight schedules to get the package to Baghdad right away.

"Right after the call from Major Allouche, I started calling those I knew would be involved and telling them to be ready," he said.

The cargo arrived within two hours and Airmen from 8 EAMS special handling processed the package and got it ready for shipment in 15 minutes.

"Whenever the mission is ready, we process it in the system so we have visibility over it and we can track it all the way to its destination," said Staff Sgt. Richard Nedrow, the NCO in charge of special handling deployed from the 437th Aerial Port Squadron at Charleston AFB. "[On this package] we had to make sure the temperature was maintained, which is hard out here because it is so hot. We have to keep it below certain limits. We store it [in refrigerated rooms] until it gets ready to ship out. We track the ice times to make sure the ice is good."

Sergeant Lunge found a C-130 Hercules mission that could take the package to Baghdad less than two hours after it arrived on base. However, after 1.5 hours the Air Terminal Operations Center staff notified 8 EAMS members that a maintenance problem would delay the flight until the evening.

"When the C-130 broke, they said it would be another hour before they would know if it could take off, so I started looking for another mission," said the native of Buffalo, N.Y.

He found a C-17 mission leaving in 10 minutes that wasn't scheduled to take cargo.

Capt. Keith Grawert, a C-17 pilot with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron deployed from the 15th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB, got the call and made the decision to hold the aircraft to wait for the lifesaving package.

"All we were told was that it was a 'life-or-death' shipment of cargo," Captain Grawert said. "It's not every day that we hear those words, so it seemed like a straightforward decision to go ahead and wait for it. The interesting thing about airlift is that one never knows for sure what impact a particular mission may have on someone's life regardless of how routine it may seem to us."

The aircraft taxied away as soon as the package was on board. As soon as the aircraft was airborne, Sergeant Lunge contacted the Combined Air and Space Operations Center staff, which coordinated with other agencies in Baghdad to pick up the package and deliver it to its final destination.

The anti-venom arrived and was administered in time to help the snakebite victim, who improved during the next few days.

The box of anti-venom was one of four life-or-death deliveries the 8 EAMS has handled in the past five months.

"Without immediate resupply of the items to the hospital, patients' lives were at risk," Major Allouche said. "This is incredible support that no commercial carrier could provide to our organization."

Army Lt. Col. Sam Haddad of the Army Medical Materiel Center Southwest Asia said the strong relationship with the 8 EAMS Airmen ensures mission success daily.

"They are our muscle and provide USAMMC-SWA with a strategic lift capability unmatched by any of our logistics partners," he said. "The service they provide for us is nothing less than phenomenal and plays a vital role in ensuring lifesaving materiel gets into the hands of those who need it."