Aeromedical team at Scott AFB joins response to Hurricane Harvey

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jodi Martinez
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Scott Air Force Base joined humanitarian relief efforts by mobilizing the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Aug. 30, 2017, in the wake of catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, which has caused historical and life-threatening flooding in the states of Texas and Louisiana.

375th AES personnel will be staged at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, where eight aeromedical evacuation teams and eight Critical Care Air Transport Teams will respond to high-priority patients at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, which is currently acting as a Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility. From the airport, medical teams will deliver hurricane victims to one of seven Federal Coordination Center Locations across the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

As the aeromedical evacuation team prepared to leave, Lt. Col. Catherine Bonhoff, the 375th AES director of operations, showed images of families’ homes under water and overcrowded stadiums with dwindling supplies.

“These are the people you’re helping,” said Bonhoff. “There are thousands of people who are still stranded. The Texas (Air) National Guard has mobilized 783 personnel, and they are prepared to mobilize 3,000 more. It’s all hands on deck.”

Col. John Howard, the 375th Air Mobility Wing and installation commander, visited the aeromedical evacuation crew before their departure from the passenger terminal. News footage of stranded Americans and recovery efforts flashed on the television screen beside him while he reminded them of their impact.

“The fact is you guys are going out there and making the mission happen,” said Howard. “The thing I noticed – and it’s probably no big deal to you – is how quickly you were ready to go.”

The team was notified Monday to be prepared for up to a month-long response. As they loaded a C-17 Globemaster III, they joined 6.5 tons of medical and emergency supplies loaded by the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

“We found out Tuesday afternoon, which, in turn, led to an immediate response,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Lathwood, the 375th LRS small terminal operations section chief. “Any opportunity to see my job or the work we do effect this nation is an exciting feeling. (It) makes us feel like a team, family, and most of all – Airmen.”

375th LRS, having just over 24 hours to coordinate and respond, became another vital link to the disaster response.

“It took a total (Scott AFB) effort to deploy these tough and talented Airmen,” said Bonhoff. “With every sortie, we are mindful of the coordination and behind-the-scenes work performed by our mission partners.”

A second aeromedical evacuation team left Scott AFB, Aug. 31, 2017, to join the medical teams in Arkansas, and an additional team is on standby to respond, but they are just one part of Scott AFB’s response to the devastating disaster.

Air Mobility Command, U.S. Transportation Command, and 618th Air Operations continue to plan and coordinate disaster response. The 375th Communication Group, in coordination with the 24th Air Force, established a network connectivity supporting seven liaison representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Veteran Affairs.

Staff Sgt. April Cooper, a 375th AES technician, said these combined efforts defines us as a nation, and she’s ready to do her part.

“I’m just waiting to see the relief on their faces when they are saved,” said Cooper. “It hits home when it happens in your back door. That feeling of, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get in there and get it done’ - nothing says America like that.”