By Michael P. KleimanDecember 2, 2019
Note: This press release is the third installment of a four-part monthly series on global patient movement.
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In August 2019, the successful four-day, 8,000-mile aeromedical evacuation of a wounded soldier, whose life hung in the balance, from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas, demonstrated the criticality of strategic theater patient movement, transporting the ill or injured from abroad to America.
U.S. Transportation Command, the Department of Defense's single manager for global patient movement, had a significant role in organizing and executing the unique, strategic theater AE mission referred to as REACH 797.
The multiple-step process kicked off with the involved senior medical authority at Bagram AB initiating a patient movement request through the USTRANSCOM Regulating and Command and Control Evacuation System. The DOD's automated, electronic information tool is employed by the three USTRANSCOM patient movement requirement centers. These facilities are known as TPMRC-Americas, Scott AFB, TPMRC-East, Ramstein AB, Germany, and TPMRC-West, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
After review of the PMR by TPMRC-E staff, the theater validating flight surgeon at TPMRC-E validated the requested strategic patient movement requirement, coordinated the specialty team, and set a cabin altitude restriction. In about 20 hours, the wounded warfighter transited -- with the support of approximately 18 AE professionals -- through numerous time zones to a higher level of medical care in America.
USTRANSCOM's air component, Air Mobility Command, through its 618th Air Operations Center at Scott AFB, coordinated the aircraft requirement -- a C-17 Globemaster III -- with the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover AFB, Delaware, and also two out-of-the-ordinary aerial refueling missions conducted by KC-135 stratotankers assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill AFB, Florida. In addition, a Critical Care Air Transport Team from the 10th Expeditionary AE Flight, a USTRANSCOM-assigned unit at Ramstein AB, worked in tandem with the other AE crewmembers onboard the C-17 to ensure the injured patient's safe passage to the final medical destination.
"During a protracted, high-end conflict, we need the ability to move patients quickly around the globe. Strategic theater patient movement involves transporting our wounded warfighters from overseas to the continental United States, but it also entails moving the ill and injured from one geographic command's area of responsibility to another. For instance, the recent REACH 797 mission encompassed the AORs of U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Northern Command," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Sean Wilkinson, chief, Global Patient Movement Integration Cell, USTRANSCOM's Command Surgeon Directorate. "Our AE crewmembers are doing an incredible job ensuring the safe transfer of patients around the world."
Similarly, strategic theater patient movement from one geographic COCOM to another also has multiple parts in the process. For instance, when a wounded warrior is medevac'd from Bagram AB to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein AB, the TPMRC-E again validates the requirement. Next, the 603d Air and Space Operations Center's AE Control Team at Ramstein AB identifies an aircraft -- a KC-135 or C-17 -- and also coordinates with the owner to allocate the airframe. Then, AE and/or CCATT crewmembers' involvement staffing the mission occurs.
Once the designated aircraft arrives at Ramstein AB, the patient is transferred to the 86th Aeromedical Staging Facility for subsequent transport to the LRMC.
"When conducting a strategic theater patient movement, the number of medical handoffs can cause issues. Our AE professionals always put the patient and their care first and foremost in transit. The safe, secure, and sound transfer of the ill or injured at both the point of departure and the point of arrival must also -- and always -- occur, stated U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Cieurzo, chief, Patient Movement Operations Division, USTRANSCOM's Command Surgeon Directorate. "In addition, strategic theater patient movement is also important because of the constant concern of bed space. Timely strategic theater patient movement is necessary to keep bed space open for patient throughput."
USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power. Powered by dedicated men and women, we underwrite the lethality of the joint force, advance American interests, and provide our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options and create multiple dilemmas for adversaries.