NC ANG embarks on life-saving mission
By Staff Sgt. Laura Montgomery, 145th Airlift Wing
/ Published September 24, 2019
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing and 156th Airlift Squadron are putting C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to work in their mission of helping to transport patients between medical facilities around the world.
The North Carolina Air National Guard converted from the C-130 Hercules to the C-17 the past two years. Members work with other Air Force Active Duty, Reserve, and Guard units in the Aeromedical Evacuation Patient Distribution Channel.
"Typically there are two (C-17 Globemaster III aircraft) in rotation. While one is finishing up its mission bringing patients from downrange to Germany to Joint Base Andrews, the other one is picking up mission-critical aeromedical evacuation assets (equipment) from Joint Base Andrews to take back to Germany," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Suber, 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation flight commander. "All Aeromedical Evacuation Crew Members are trained to operate on C-17s, in which the airframe is faster, bigger and configured for a better and more comfortable flight for patients and crew."
Aeromedical Evacuation Crew Members with medically trained aircrew provide time-sensitive care for casualties traveling between medical facilities globally. Many units help to make sure everything runs smoothly. Aircraft maintenance personnel ensure the airframes are fit for each trip.
"Our biggest challenge is keeping the aircraft moving. It depends on the type of repair issue, but we work to make sure it's properly taken care of," said Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Phillips, 145th Maintenance Operation Flight superintendent." It's good to know that our unit can be of assistance, help when needed, and we're there for the individuals that need it for a safe, airworthy flight."
Units in the Aeromedical Evacuation Channel include four active duty, 17 reserve and nine guard units. Each unit runs about a 90-day or four-month mission, rotating with each other. In 2018 and this year, 2,362 patients have been transported, 88 of them victims of battle injuries. There were 12 urgent casualties; 46 priority, needing treatment within 24-hours; and 2,304 routine, needing treatment within 72 hours.
"Although Aeromedical Evacuation Crew Members are accustomed to seeing wounded and sick warriors, there are times they are touched emotionally," said Suber. "These emotions derive from both empathy for the injury/illness and knowing we are in a position to help and provide a level of care and service."
Phillips said the 145th Airlift Wing is learning a lot.
"This shows the Air Wing our first real-world mission (with the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft) that we can accomplish this even while going through conversion," said Phillips. "We can handle more than we thought, but we're doing it and I'm proud of the whole Air Wing!"