Military medical centers in Germany and the U.S. are occupied by many service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting them there isn’t easy. This mission requires the talents and dedication of a lot of people working behind the scenes who make sure these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines arrive there as quickly, and in the best condition, as possible.
Among those behind the scenes are search and rescue teams and aeromedical evacuation and staging teams, all of whom perform missions essential to ensuring injured service members are transported to where they have to be to get the care they need.
In many cases in a combat zone, this means operating under the “Golden Hour” rule—the understanding that critically injured people who undergo surgery within 60 minutes have a much higher rate of survival.
“We have less than an hour to get patients under ‘bright lights and cold steel’ if they are going to live,” said Staff Sgt. George Reed, a pararescueman with the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
For rescue teams, this means going anywhere and doing whatever is necessary to find and bring home the injured.
“Any environment, anytime, anywhere – we will execute a rescue mission or patient recovery,” Reed said.
Finding injured service members isn’t enough. From there, it’s all about keeping them alive, getting them the immediate medical care they need and then transporting the patients back to the U.S.
Handling this transition are Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facilities , which act as the link between theater hospitals, the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and the other military medical centers in the U.S., including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
“All the medical teams across the theater come together to accomplish the movement of patients,” said 1st Lt. Kathryn Ellens, a registered nurse at Bagram’s CASF. “It’s amazing to see our capabilities and how quickly we can get a patient in and out.”
Because patients require care while in transit, medical teams travel with them. . Called Aeromedical Evacuation teams, each is made up of two flight nurses and three emergency medical technicians who provide medical care and support to patients traveling from theater hospitals to Germany or back to the U.S.
In some cases, when patients are severely injured, a critical care air transport team are is also included on the crew. These teams are made up of a physician, an intensive care nurse and a respiratory therapist, who, working together, can turn a regular medical transport aircraft into a flying intensive care unit.
“It’s all about these guys and girls who put their lives on the line for us, the least we can do is give them the most optimum care we can provide,” said Senior Airman Delton McClary, a CCATT respiratory therapist with the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Bagram.
All of these jobs, from the rescue teams to the men and women staffing the staging facilities to the medical teams who fly with their patients, are vital in taking injured service members off the battlefield and bringing them home.
(Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted with the wrong byline credit.)