Afghan air force learns self-sustaining casualty evacuation care

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vernon Young
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
The flightline is filled with aircrew and C-130 Hercules engines are starting up for another Afghan air force casualty evacuation mission.

Within two years, the Afghan air force has made significant improvements to their casualty evacuation capabilities, or CASEVAC, as they continue to take the lead and ownership of day-to-day operations. The aircrew is now working hand-in-hand with medical personnel to accomplish the mission.

The days of conflict that were once filled with uncertainty and questions about retrieving Afghan national army soldiers from the battlefield is now being answered by skilled and knowledgeable AAF personnel.

AAF flight medics have been performing CASEVAC missions without the assistance of U.S. Air Force air advisers since April 2013. Many of the missions have been completed with Cessna-208 Caravans and MI-17 helicopters. The recent addition to use the C-130 Hercules to transport patients, human remains and passengers has made the AAF more effective, both in saving lives and timeliness.

"Over the last year I've been very fortunate to work with the Afghan air force," said Col. Lee Harvis, the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan and 438th Air Expeditionary Wing command surgeon. "With exceptional leadership and medics, they have grown over the past five years to build up an Afghan air force medical system that's been able to take care of all of the requirements for the Afghan air force."

As an experienced doctor, Harvis said he has seen a vast improvement while advising the Afghan surgeon general.

Since 2013, the number of AAF CASEVAC missions and rescues has quadrupled due to the addition of aircraft. The AAF is now training their personnel to ensure they’re ready to step up when needed.

Depending on the mission, an AAF aircrew member could be briefing the crew, distributing weight on the aircraft and ensuring each passenger is following guidelines set by the aircraft commander. Without the aircrew member performing the job, the mission doesn't get done.

The AAF is no longer relying on the U.S. Air Force air advisers to show them the ropes. They're leading their own people to effectively complete the demands of CASEVAC missions.

Each rescue is tracked and reported through an eight-line process, much like a nine-line medical evacuation request. The eight-line process covers location, injury, method of travel and basic information to get the aircraft moving toward the personnel on the ground.

The seamless process taught by air advisers has been put to test and is working flawlessly, officials said.

The AAF also planned and executed a 10-day flight medic course, 17 new medics graduated from across Afghanistan in effort to increase movement capabilities.

"We are happy because they've helped us out a lot with training," said Afghan air force flight nurse 2nd Lt. Babak Zabhuillah. "I just want to thank all of the American forces and I now feel confident on CASEVAC missions with my people."

As one of the most experienced flight nurses of the AAF, Zabuillah has completed 45 missions, which are more CASEVAC missions than his AAF counterparts have logged throughout Afghanistan. He understands how the air-to-ground assets must work together to complete the mission.

The AAF pilots and flight doctors have also made significant strides in timeliness and quality of patient care. Since 2012, the AAF has improved CASEVAC response times from 72 hours down to within four hours. The flight medics and pilots plan to become more efficient with each CASEVAC mission as communication improves and mission planning sharpens.

More lives were saved and human remains were transferred honorably on May 19, as a C-130H1 Hercules crew completed a CASEVAC mission to Helmand Province. The AAF aircrew escorted 16 injured ANA soldiers, nine human remains and an additional 23 passengers traveling home on leave during the trip. Every aspect of the mission was planned by AAF personnel.

The AAF aircrew didn't allow the crowded aircraft to be a distraction and delivered reliable support to passengers while securing cargo along the way.

Between December 2012 and April 2013, CASEVAC patient movements increased by 34 percent with transportation of 392 patients. The effort and numbers have since skyrocketed.

Since April 2013, the AAF pilots and flight doctors have completed 6,953 missions, saving 1,540 lives. They have successfully saved 100 percent of their CASEVAC patients.

"I think the future of Afghanistan is good and we are becoming independent because we have more training," said Afghanistan air force flight nurse 1st Lt. Parwiz Amiri. "We're doing good with the CASEVAC missions."