Liquid life

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shannon Moorehead
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Air is a key component people need to survive in this world, yet it’s often a second thought. From C-21 pilots flying at 45,000 feet to aeromedical evacuation teams needing oxygen for their patients, oxygen has to be readily available to support rapid global mobility.

Members of the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron manage the supplemental liquid oxygen, or LOX, systems at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and stand ready to support those who require LOX to accomplish their missions.

“I find it very rewarding to be one of the reasons why our pilots can breathe clean air during their flights,” said Staff Sgt. Martez Little, 375th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of fuels training and support. “I like to know that my work supports our mission at any installation with birds in the air.”

One of the units that require the use of LOX is the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. AES Airmen are responsible for transporting wounded or injured personnel by aircraft.

“Oxygen is something all living things need to survive--even more so when someone is ill or injured,” said Staff Sgt. Harsh M. Vaidya, 375th AES mission planning technician. “When you add altitude on top of that, it would be impossible to transport a patient safely (without) oxygen.”

When an individual is injured, they experience a decrease in circulating blood volume. This can cause decreased cardiac output, which impairs the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and produces a state of shock, which includes symptoms of breathlessness and hypoxia.

In addition to medical uses, LOX systems are used in a variety of Air Force aircraft, including C-17 Globemaster IIIs, C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxies, when altitudes exceed 12,000 feet.

“LOX has an expansion ratio of 900 to one,” said William Murphy, 375th Operations Support Squadron transient alert lead servicer. “This makes it highly beneficial to larger cargo aircraft because of the large amount of oxygen needed for periods of unpressurized flight during airdrops and the large number of passengers they may haul.”

While LOX is a valuable asset used for patients and military aircraft, it doesn’t come without risk.

LOX, while integral to the mission, is also a highly dangerous compound that supports and accelerates combustion, said Murphy. To safely handle LOX, the 375th LRS Airmen must eliminate all possible dangers including the fuel and ignition sources. By eliminating the fuel and ignition sources from the equation, they are able to safely handle the material. To further ensure their safety, all aircraft and equipment are grounded and Airmen who handle LOX are equipped with special clothing and equipment to eliminate static electricity as an ignition source. These precautions ensure Airmen are safe and capable of completing their mission.

Whether it is a mission that airlifts essential material or transports injured personnel, something as simple as an oxygen system can be the difference between life and death.