By Kevin M. Hymel, Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs
/ Published December 29, 2015
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- In 2015, the doctors, nurses and technicians of the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) made a difference in the Air Force’s mission, while new AFMS technologies and training exercises ensured air and space superiority.
By working with overseas partners, and helping the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, AFMS aided the Air Force in rapid global mobility and precision engagements. Meanwhile, the service reinforced the Air Force’s core values at home and abroad during a leadership transition.
The AFMS saw advances in technology. In January, the U.S. Transportation Command launched the Transport Isolation System, which allows airplanes to move multiple patients with infectious diseases; and a computer-aided design and computer-aided machining helped the 779th Dental Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, make same-day crowns and other tooth restorations, which used to take four to six weeks.
In February, a usable sweat sensor prototype, a Band-Aid-like device used to analyze a person’s biometrics, underwent the first successful human trials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In September, the 59th Medical Wing Emergency Medical Services at the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, became the first Air Force unit to use the Perfusor Space Infusion Pump System to administer IV medications to patients on board ambulances.
And BATDOK (Battlefield Airmen Trauma Distributed Observation Kit), a computer program that runs on a smartphone, or other devices, and can monitor multiple patients and alert medics to someone needing critical care, went through more testing with the 711th Human Performance Wing, Human Effectiveness Directorate, at Wright-Patterson AFB.
The year also saw continuous training around AFMS as well as innovations in teaching and new programs to teach clinical teams.
In late January, the first six Sustained Medical and Readiness Trained (SMART) program students graduated from the course at Nellis AFB, Nevada. To better teach students, a C-17 Globemaster III was shipped in parts to the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Aeromedical Evacuation Training Facility at Wright-Patterson AFB.
AFMS teams trained in various exercises: Operation Joint Medic, a training exercise at the Silver Flag Alpha range complex in Nevada; Ultimate Cadeceus 2015 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans on April 16, where teams conducted aeromedical evacuation training; MEDBEACH 2015, a joint service exercise at Patrick AFB, Florida, which prepared military medical personnel for deployments; and the annual EMT Rodeo, where 21 medical teams of elite emergency medical technicians competed in 19 categories of competition over two days at Cannon AFB, New Mexico.
Throughout the year, AFMS Airmen helped partners from other nations train and also lent a hand in crises.
In January, Airmen from the 379th Expedition Medical Group trained with their Qatari counterparts at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to enhance their ability to jointly respond to medical emergencies. In March, AFMS participated in Operation Pacific Angel, a humanitarian assistance operation in Quang Ngal, Vietnam, which ensured the two countries’ militaries could work together in a crisis. AFMS also participated in Pacific Angel 15-4 in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, providing medical care for 3,895 patients, refurbishing three schools for 3,000 students, and helping two local hospitals overhaul their ability to respond to emergencies.
As the Ebola crisis in West Africa receded, the Air Force wound down Operation United Assistance, which provided an air bridge into Liberia. After an earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, a team from the 36th Contingency Response Group assisted with communications between the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development with the Nepalese army.
Possibly the greatest overseas contribution came from Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone of the 65th Air Base Group at Lajes Field, in the Azores, who, with two friends, subdued a terrorist gunman onboard a train traveling through northern France on August 21. Stone later provided medical aid to a fellow passenger.
While American forces continued to retrograde from Afghanistan for most of the year, the AFMS provided valuable assistance treating the wounded and standing up the Afghan military’s medical service.
The Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield treated both wounded and sick patients, boasting a 98 percent survival rate. Critical Care Air Transport Teams from the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flew wounded service members to Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Al Udeid AB, Qatar; and other locations for higher care.
Throughout July, advisors with the Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air provided weekly training to the Afghan national army and Afghan air force to further develop and grow their flight medics’ capabilities.
It was a year of change for AFMS leadership. Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas W. Travis retired after a distinguished career. As his last official act he visited the 59th Medical Wing, Wilford Hall Ambulatory Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. On June 8, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Mark A. Ediger was promoted as the 22nd Air Force surgeon general at the Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. He had been the deputy surgeon general since July 2012.