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ASTS Airmen train with ANG, VA

Reserve Citizen Airmen from Luke Air Force Base and Wright Patterson AFB work with local firefighters in transporting simulated patients during a National Disaster Mass Casualty exercise at the 161st Air Refueling Wing at Phoenix Sky Harbor.

Reserve Citizen Airmen from Luke Air Force Base and Wright Patterson AFB work with local firefighters in transporting simulated patients during a National Disaster Mass Casualty exercise at the 161st Air Refueling Wing at Phoenix Sky Harbor. The multi-agency exercise gave participants the opportunity to sharpen mass care procedures and techniques and inter-agency integration. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz)

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron transport simulated patients during a National Disaster Medical System exercise May 22 at Phoenix Sky Harbor.

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron transport simulated patients during a National Disaster Medical System exercise May 22 at Phoenix Sky Harbor. The multi-agency exercise brought together various agencies including the 944th ASTS, Army National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, the Red Cross, and local fire departments for the purpose of responding to a simulated national disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz)

GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. -- Airmen with the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron recently participated in a multi-agency exercise to train on moving patients during a simulated emergency.

The National Disaster Medical System exercise, spearheaded by Phoenix Veterans Affairs in partnership with the Arizona Air National Guard at Phoenix Sky Harbor, brought together various agencies including the 944 ASTS, Army National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, the Red Cross, and local fire departments for the purpose of responding to a simulated national disaster.

“The purpose of the exercise was to test our ability to fill our NDMS responsibilities,” said Dr. Michael Chesser, Phoenix VA hospitalist and retired 944th ASTS physician. “It was important to pull the ASTS into the mix for two reasons: to give some exposure to our new Critical Care Air Transport Team that is in the training pipeline and to continue to foster relationships with the reserve, guard and VA. The ASTS’s primary mission is patient staging and can be a major asset if we have a real world event.”

Tech. Sgt. Justin Sanderson, 944th ASTS emergency medical technician NCO in charge, said his squadron’s CCATT played an important role in the exercise.

“The role of the ASTS was two-fold: to integrate critical care transport via our CCATT team into the hospital system and to provide on-the-spot training for members (civilian and Department of Defense) who have never conducted or have very little litter carrying skills,” Sanderson said.

During the exercise, a simulated emergency in another state, led to the transport of patients into Arizona for medical care.

“The NDMS portion was only a two-day event, simulating evacuation of patients from Southern California into the Phoenix medical system,” Sanderson said. “This is where the DoD comes in, utilizing military aircraft to transport large number of patients from the disaster area into surrounding states.”

All participating agencies worked together seamlessly and quickly achieved the exercise goals.

“Overall the full scale exercise was a huge success,” Sanderson said. “The ASTS outperformed my expectations. The med techs intervened at a pivotal moment, eliminating the likelihood of potential injuries while being efficient. The CCATT crew from both the 88th Airlift Wing (Wright Patterson AFB) and 944th performed very well given various change-ups along the way and was able to integrate into the hospital system which is a rare training opportunity.”