USTRANSCOM patient movement exercise strengthens aeromedical skills, partnerships

  • Published
  • By Laura Fogerty
  • U.S. Transportation Command Public Affairs

U.S. Transportation Command conducted Exercise Ultimate Caduceus 2022 at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 23-March 8. 

The annual field training exercise is designed to test the ability of USTRANSCOM to move large numbers of medical patients by air from overseas locations to treatment centers in the U.S. 

“Our ability to safely and rapidly transport injured or sick service members from overseas theaters to world-class medical facilities is second to none,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, commander of USTRANSCOM. “Exercises like UC22 enable military and interagency partners to work together to train and improve upon current capabilities. This exercise affords us opportunities to train on new platforms and ensure readiness across the spectrum of conflict.” 

One of those new platforms in this exercise was the U.S. Air Force’s KC-46A Pegasus next generation air refueling aircraft. Aside from its primary air refueling role, it was designed to accommodate a mixed load of passengers, aeromedical evacuation patients and cargo. 

“We purposely requested this airframe for participation in UC22. The more AE crews we train on this aircraft, the better prepared we’ll be for actual missions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Rudy Cachuela, USTRANSCOM’s command surgeon and director of Global Patient Movement Operations

To sustain the amount and type of patients requiring care, the Air Force moved away from a dedicated aircraft to aircraft-of-opportunity. Any available cargo or refueling aircraft can be configured with standardized medical equipment. AE teams, composed of two nurses and three medical technicians, are taught how to configure this equipment and utilize power in each type of aircraft. 

Critical Care Air Transport Teams, which are specialized medical teams comprised of one doctor, an intensive care nurse, and a respiratory therapist, also trained in UC22. CCATTs assist AE as a rapidly deployable resource by treating critically ill and injured patients who require continuous stabilization and advanced care. 

“Our AE and CCATT teams are amazing,” Cachuela said. “They have to understand a patient’s condition and stabilize them for what could be a trip from the other side of the globe to a hospital in the U.S.”  

Cachuela explained UC22 was conducted within a contested environment training scenario.  

“We wanted to reset the approach to patient movement training so that we respond with skillsets anticipated in future campaigns and contingencies.” 

The UC22 scenario simulated receiving injured troops from overseas, triaging them to a U.S. base, then moving them to longer-term and advanced care centers called Federal Coordinating Centers, said Cachuela. 

“Getting our ill and injured service members to the best level of care is complex,” he said. “It can involve multiple government and civilian agencies. We’re training on that interagency coordination piece in this exercise. It’s as important as training and assessing AE crews.” 

Approximately 370 military and civilian personnel supported UC22, including U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy active duty and Reserve members, and representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Defense Health Agency, and the Texas Department of State Health Services

“At the end of the day, this is about saving the lives of our warfighters,” Van Ovost said. “Every ill or injured service member should know that under the care of the world’s finest medical professionals, we will move mountains to bring them home as expeditiously as possible.”