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NEWS | April 22, 2015

Aeromedical evacuation team in Afghanistan provides in-air care

By By Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 22, 2015 -- A team of airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here traveled to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan,Sunday to provide in-flight medical care to three servicemembers.

The U.S. Army soldiers sustained multiple injuries after their mine resistant ambush protected vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.

When wounded on the field of battle, numerous variables come into play that add to or detract from servicemembers' chances of survival, and aeromedical evacuation, or AE, airmen are charged with the responsibility of tipping the scales in their favor and delivering wounded warriors to top-tier care facilities around the world.

"Our primary duties are to evacuate the sick and wounded to a higher echelon of medical care," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexander Finn, 455th EAES AE technician. "We had patients that experienced (an) IED blast while driving their MRAP, and all of them experienced traumatic brain injuries."

Once notified of a medical evacuation mission, AE personnel collect medical data on their patients and prepare for whatever scenarios may unfold in-flight, a process that enables them to remain proactive rather than reactive.

"Part of our pre-mission planning is to review all of the patient's medical records, plan for potential emergencies and set up our equipment accordingly," Finn said. "We have standardized kits that we bring which have all of our medical gear and standardized emergency equipment kits as well. Once we take off, if we don't have the equipment properly prepared or properly function checked, and it fails, there's no turning back."

With more than a year of training, 600 flight hours and a nursing degree under his belt, Finn, with the added support of fellow 455th EAES teammates including two flight nurses and two additional AE technicians, is well versed in the full spectrum of patient care.

Because the three servicemembers Sunday experienced brain injuries, "there's a potential of swelling which could cause life-threatening medical emergencies. So our primary responsibility was to monitor their neuro status in relation to the stress of the flight, as well as monitor their pain and give them scheduled medications."

Finn and fellow AE airmen prepare for each deployment, pack for each mission and tend to each patient in executing their responsibilities in Afghanistan. As a result, all three Soldiers arrived safely at a recovery facility in Southwest Asia.

"I feel like treating our servicemembers is a higher calling," Finn said. "I come here [to Afghanistan], and even though I don't know these men and women personally, I have that connection to them being a servicemember. I don't want to see them get hurt protecting our freedoms and keeping us safe. We just give them respect for that courage and take care of them to the best of our ability."