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US, Japan partnerships guarantee critical care

Katherine and Emmeline McKeown, spouse and daughter of U.S. Air Force Capt. Connor McKeown, waves to Oliver McKeown through the Aomori Hospital window prior to the aeromedical evacuation in Aomori, Japan, June 16, 2017. For Emmeline, this was the first time seeing her brother. Once the neonatal intensive care unit team from the U.S. Navy hospital, Okinawa, Japan, prepared Oliver for the flight, they transferred him to the Aomori Airport for departure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

Katherine and Emmeline McKeown, spouse and daughter of Capt. Connor McKeown, waves to Oliver McKeown through the Aomori Hospital window prior to the aeromedical evacuation in Aomori, Japan, June 16, 2017. For Emmeline, this was the first time seeing her brother. Once the neonatal intensive care unit team from the Navy hospital in Okinawa, Japan, prepared Oliver for the flight, they transferred him to the Aomori Airport for departure. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

An Airman assigned to the 18th Medical Group from Kadena Air Base, Japan, assists with an aeromedical evacuation in Aomori, Japan, June 15, 2017. Since the Misawa Air Base runway remains closed for construction, the 35th Medical Group relied on solidified friendships among the Japanese community to help coordinate the evacuation at the Aomori Airport. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

An Airman assigned to the 18th Medical Group from Kadena Air Base, Japan, assists with an aeromedical evacuation in Aomori, Japan, June 15, 2017. Since the Misawa Air Base runway remains closed for construction, the 35th Medical Group relied on solidified friendships among the Japanese community to help coordinate the evacuation at the Aomori Airport. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Margaret Dodd, a 18th Medical Operations Squadron neonatal intensive care unit nurse from Kadena Air Base, Japan, assists in lifting Oliver McKeown, son of Capt. Connor McKeown, during an aeromedical evacuation in Aomori, Japan, June 15, 2017. The coordination process also had to filter through the Aomori Airport Management Office, Theater Patient Movement Requirements Center, which builds the evacuation mission, source the aircraft and assign the aircrew and medical team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

Maj. Margaret Dodd, an 18th Medical Operations Squadron neonatal intensive care unit nurse from Kadena Air Base, Japan, assists in lifting Oliver McKeown, son of Capt. Connor McKeown, during an aeromedical evacuation in Aomori, Japan, June 15, 2017. The coordination process had to filter through the Aomori Airport Management Office and Theater Patient Movement Requirements Center, which builds the evacuation mission, sources the aircraft and assigns the aircrew and medical team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Deana Heitzman)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Once a patient is deemed incapable of receiving care at Misawa Air Base due to medical constraints, the 35th Medical Support Squadron aeromedical evacuation team engineers an expedited mobility plan utilizing Pacific Air Forces assets to relocate the patient for critical care attention.

Despite Misawa AB’s runway being closed, the solidified partnerships between the U.S. and Japan enabled the use of a nearby civilian airport for a military aircraft and medical team to accomplish this vital movement, June 15, 2017.

“This is the first time I have seen an evacuation process completed in Aomori, and we are very grateful we were allowed to use their runway,” said Staff Sgt. Brek Halgren, the 35th MDSS AE NCO in charge.

After approving the Air Force’s request to conduct this mission, the closest available runway management team, located two hours west in Aomori, Japan, assisted in the coordination. The 35th MDSS team also spoke with the Theater Patient Movement Requirements Center, which builds the evacuation mission, sources the aircraft and assigns the aircrew and medical team.

Since this instance involved a premature birth, PACAF as a whole proved its strengths in flexibility and mobility on all fronts: a neonatal intensive care unit team from the Navy hospital in Okinawa, Japan, accompanied aircrew from the 517th Airlift Squadron, assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to prepare the baby for the flight.

"Being a part of this evacuation mission was an incredible experience,” said Capt. Connor McKeown, the father of the patient. “We are so grateful to all those who worked so hard to get our baby to a military hospital. The Air Force puts a lot of effort in taking care of families and we learned that first hand."

Once the family and patient loaded the C-17 Globemaster III, they departed from Aomori Airport and arrived safely in Okinawa.

“It is incredibly important we have this resource available to us and are able to have this relationship in place so we can take care of our patients,” added Halgren. “We really appreciate the cooperation with the governor, the prefecture and the local airport management office.”

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