By Senior Airman Kasey Phipps, 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 19, 2016
WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. -- The 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron held a training event that featured multiple airframes, a new static training platform and realistic field conditions, April 15-16, 2016, at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The Multiple Aircraft Training Opportunity Program allowed 137 AES Airmen and AES Airmen from six of the Air National Guard's nine aeromedical evacuation squadrons to exceed normal training requirements by training in all three of the airframes they fly on regularly during operations.
"The purpose is to bring units together so that we can interact, train, share techniques and different kinds of skill sets, and also experience different airframes," said Col. Keith Reed, 137 AES commander.
The squadrons in attendance were the 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from New Castle, Delaware, 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Channel Islands, California, 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Charlotte, North Carolina, 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Martinsburg, West Virginia, and 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Jackson, Mississippi.
Aeromedical evacuation squadrons are typically Air National Guard or Reserve units that are responsible for the transport and care of patients, which is accomplished using the C-130 Hercules, KC-135 Stratotanker or C-17 Globemaster III airframes. The diversity of aircraft can present training challenges that are not easily duplicated due to aircraft structural differences.
"That part of the training is not always accessible," said Master Sgt. Yvonne Payne, 137 AES aeromedical evacuation technician and MATOP organizer. "Here, we have multiple aircraft in one central location where all of the guard units can come to have that training."
Apart from offering all three aircraft, MATOP also featured a static C-130 training platform and an iStan man, a simulated computer-controlled patient that can even blink.
The first day of the event, Airmen from the six units were familiarized with each aircraft, including egress procedures, equipment locations, and layouts unique to each airframe.
Later, Airmen were tested on their abilities to setup those airframes, along with their medical knowledge and skills in timed scavenger hunts, relays and obstacle courses, which combined assessment with friendly competition between units.
Unit comradery was short-lived as the personnel were separated into several aeromedical evacuation crews consisting of a medical crew commander, flight nurses, and aeromedical evacuation technicians who were then assigned to an aircraft or static trainer. The arrangement was meant to emulate the integrated crews typical on deployments.
"So having the benefit of working together in this type of event, already helps build those relationships with other squadrons, and it also allows us to see that even though we're all in uniform, some squadrons have better or different techniques that we may want to use in our home squadrons," said Payne.
In the aircraft, the crews were exposed to fluctuating scenarios, properly setting up and securing patients and equipment, monitoring and stabilizing patients, and responding to in-flight aircraft emergencies like smoke and fire.
"In the real world, we all know nothing goes according to plan," said Payne. "With events like this, you have your ups and your downs ... flights are going to come in early, come in late. There are so many things that could go wrong in a real world mission, that events like this allow the personnel to see that it's not going to go perfectly. This is our moment to have our little panic and learn from the issues or our mistakes."
The event required all Airmen, including communications, logistic and administration Airmen, to effectively apply the processes that they have learned throughout their careers, providing knowledge refreshment for the experienced and a thorough introduction to those new to the career field.
For Staff Sgt. Chantel McKinley, a 146th AES aeromedical technician from Channel Islands, California, who is new to the career field, MATOP was her first AES training event. As a simulated patient, she was able to observe how patients were cared for throughout the flight.
"It helps a lot because I actually get to see what they're doing, like the technology they use and how they set everything up," said McKinley. "I also see how they communicate during the whole process through their headsets."
The first MATOP training event was hosted in 2012, and this year's event was the second and hopefully not the last.
"We're looking at doing this annually moving ahead from here," said Reed. "The great thing about holding it more often is that you learn so much from one event. We can go right back into planning mode and build an even better exercise for next year."