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North Carolina Air National Guard Embarks on Life-Saving Mission Amidst Conversion

  • Published
  • By by Staff Sgt. Laura Montgomery
  • 145th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As the North Carolina Air National Guard has oriented its mission with C-17 Globemaster III aircraft over the past two years, the 145th Airlift Wing and 156th Airlift Squadron have gained a real-world mission that positively impacts those in need across the globe.

Members of the North Carolina Air National Guard prepare and work diligently in their first real-world mission while converting to C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, towards assisting other Air Force Active Duty, Reserve, and Guard units as they take part in the Aeromedical Evacuation Patient Distribution Channel; a mission that is constantly in force moving patients, and casualties of war inflicted wounds, in need of transport from one medical facility to another across the world.

“Typically there are two (C-17 Globemaster III aircraft) in rotation.  While one is finishing up its mission bringing patients from downrange to Germany to Joint Base Andrews, the other one is picking up mission critical aeromedical evacuation assets (equipment) from Joint Base Andrews to take back to Germany,” stated 775th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight Commander, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Suber. “All Aeromedical Evacuation Crew Members are trained to operate on C-17s, in which the airframe is faster, bigger, and configured for a better and more comfortable flight for patients and crew.”

The mission for the Aeromedical Evacuation Crew Members is to provide time-sensitive en-route care for casualties between medical facilities globally with medically trained air crew. With such a mission, there are many moving parts and units helping to make sure everything runs smoothly. An integral group to this mission includes aircraft maintenance personnel who ensure the airframes are fit for each run to and from various locations.

“Our biggest challenge is keeping the aircraft moving, it depends on the type of repair issue but we work to make sure it’s properly taken care of,” stated Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Phillips, 145th Maintenance Operation Flight superintendent. ”It’s good to know that our unit can be of assistance, help when needed, and we’re there for the individuals that need it for a safe, airworthy flight.”

Currently, there are 31 units assisting in the Aeromedical Evacuation Channel including four active duty, 17 reserve, and nine guard units. Each unit that participates runs about a 90-day or four-month mission, so the units rotate over time with each other. Patient distribution from 2018 to present includes a total of 2,362 patients; 12 urgent casualties, 46 priority, which need treatment within 24-hours, and 2,304 routine needing treatment within 72 hours. 88 of the 2,362 patients were victims of battle injuries.

“Although Aeromedical Evacuation Crew Members are accustom to seeing wounded and sick warriors, there are times they are touched emotionally,” stated Lt. Col. Suber. “These emotions derive from both empathy for the injury/illness and knowing we are in a position to help and provide a level of care and service.”

While the North Carolina Air National Guard maintains a steady pace and drives forward through the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft conversion, taking on a real-world mission, in the midst of it all is a chance to show what the unit is truly capable of handling.

“It’s going excellent so far, this is a great insight for the (145th Airlift) Wing and we’re learning a lot,” stated Chief Master Sgt. Phillips. “This shows the Air Wing our first real world mission (with the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft) that we can accomplish this even while going through conversion. We can handle more than we thought, but we’re doing it and I’m proud of the whole Air Wing!”