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172nd Airlift Wing conducts Operation Vital Force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shardae McAfee
  • 172nd Airlift Wing

JACKSON, MS – The 172nd Airlift Wing conducted Operation Vital Force, a training exercise that partnered the 172nd Medical Group, 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 172nd Force Support Squadron with the Mississippi Army National Guard to reinforce joint coordination and effectiveness during natural disaster response in Jackson, Mississippi, May 4, 2024.

The exercise developed Airmen’s capability to understand and execute the Wing’s mission of providing strategic airlift and combat forces in defense of our nation and support of our state, while learning different jobs and other mission capabilities, such as the En-route Patient Staging System

The ERPSS team can quickly evacuate patients who need higher levels of care in domestic or contingency situations.

“We usually work hand-in-hand with aeromedical evacuation units, but we can also use ground personnel to transport patients,” said Master Sgt. Kevin Hopson, the ERPSS Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.

“The ERPSS team takes care of the patient for typically no more than 24 hours, then have them transported by another crew to a facility where they receive upgraded care,” said Maj. Ebony Sanders, 172nd Medical Group Chief Nurse.

Although the ERPSS team usually receives stable patients, the aeromedical evacuation team experienced a simulated in-flight patient fatality during the exercise which tested the readiness of the 172nd FSS mortuary affairs team.

“This exercise gave our Airmen real-world experience in mortuary affairs operations,” said Master Sgt. Brennan Goliday, 172nd FSS Base Services Manager. “We must be ready to face any challenge that arises. Therefore, resiliency has to be a key focus point of development in our Airmen.”

Essential skills such as correctly carrying a patient on a litter or flightline driving were highlighted by observers and trainers throughout the exercise. Because Airmen may be expected to pick up additional duties in any environment, Operation Vital Force effectively focused on the development of Multi-Capable Airmen and cross-squadron readiness.

“We hope to conduct this exercise twice a year and add other squadrons with different missions to learn each other’s jobs and play unfamiliar roles,” said Col. Teri Dawn Neely, 172nd Medical Group Commander.

“These exercises are important in developing future leaders,” said Hopson. “You’re at a different level of preparing mobility; we hope to continue this training for the next generation in our changing world as we prepare for the future fight.”