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514th AES
Maj. Vickie Lagergren, 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medical crew director, communicates with the rest of her medical team while practicing different aerial evacuation scenarios involving injured patients as well as aircraft emergency situations on May 13, 2011. The team left Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on May 13, 2011, for a three-day training mission to St. Croix, Virgin Islands. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady)
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514th AES provides medical support at 30,000 feet

Posted 5/20/2011   Updated 5/20/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Bryan Swink
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

5/20/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The KC-135 Stratotanker powers down the runway at full speed. Members of the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron are strapped in their seats with their backs pressed against the side walls of the cabin.

The mission: transporting medical patients from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, enroute to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for more extensive treatment than what can be provided in the area of responsibility.

The crew unbuckles their seatbelts in unison as the aircraft levels off. As one, the team makes their way to the dimly-lit stretcher in the middle of the cargo bay. They begin to check on the man who lays strapped down to the stretcher. His chest starts trembling as he goes into cardiac arrest. The medical crew snaps into action.

The five-person team is led by Maj. Vickie Lagergren, 514th AES medical crew director, who gave the order to the medical technicians to begin performing basic life support techniques. One technician starts with 30 chest compressions as the other applies oxygen.

Lagergren decided to perform advanced cardiac life support after CPR was unsuccessful. Medications were added to the patient's IV while sticky pads - attached to the portable defibrillator - were methodically placed upon his chest.

His chest thrust upward off the stretcher as the team searched for a pulse. The patient began to stabilize following the team's successful application of ACLS techniques.

The medical team could breathe easier, but only for a second. Six short, consecutive rings resounded through the cabin - the pilot's voice spilled over the intercom which informed the crew the aircraft was going down. The team calmly and expediently checked the patient's tie downs before securing themselves to their seats. They waited for the continuous, long ring which signified everyone to prepare for impact.

Each passenger leaned forward, tucked their head between their knees, wrapped their arms around their legs and braced themselves for impact.

One person stood in the middle of the cabin watching the team react to the current situation. Master Sgt. Alex Saharig, 514th AES mission clinical coordinator, evaluated the team to see how they performed in simulated situations.

This entire mission was not one of real-life circumstances, but a training mission being conducted by the 514th AES, an Air Force Reserve medical unit whose primary mission is to provide trained aeromedical evacuation crews for the Air Mobility Command Strategic Aeromedical Evacuation System.

The team left Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst May 13 for a three-day training mission to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to practice different aerial evacuation scenarios involving injured patients as well as aircraft emergency situations.

The team provides stabilizing care to patients leaving the AOR enroute to a more-advanced medical facility. Saharig said many of the real-world patients would be recently out of the operating room and in need of more advanced care.

"Our goal is to maintain the status of the patient while on the aircraft," said Saharig. "We are able to treat the patient to bring him or her back to a stable condition if he or she happens to take a turn for the worse."

This training allows the medical crew to be evaluated on their performance in a realistic setting.

"It is challenging to communicate and work in a loud, stressful environment," said Lagergren. "Our team performed excellent and we are able to build off what we learned. The different scenarios tested our range as medical crew members."

5/24/2011 7:53:14 PM ET
This is a very insightful artical. I was thinking about becoming a nurse for the Air Force because of how vital the aeromedical teams are to the patient's survival. My shop gets the emergency oxygen masks ready for the AE missions but unfortunately I have never seen them used in training. It is good to read about all the different training that is giving for real world situations and how my small part contributes to its effectiveness. Way to go 514th
Monique , McGuire
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