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Aeromedics train to save lives in the skies

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- In a medical emergency, seconds matter in treating severe injuries. In many cases, these injuries require air transport to a medical facility.

The 94th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron is responsible for performing this important mission, and they regularly train so they are always at the ready to save lives.

“We are a flying unit that has the privilege of transporting patients who need a higher echelon of care, so we’re a flying hospital pretty much,” said Tech. Sgt. Katherine Henson, 94th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight medic.

The squadron recently trained on a C-130H Hercules headed to Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., where the 700th Airlift Squadron participated in a mountain-flying training exercise with the 302nd and 910th Airlift Wings.

During the flight, the squadron worked quickly under low lighting in the confined space of the cargo bay to quickly treat mock patients. These training scenarios included performing CPR on a patient having a cardiac arrest and installing a catheter on one with kidney stones.

Henson said working on what is essentially a flying hospital presents some unique challenges. She said flight medics must always be aware of their surroundings and the tendency for the airplane to make sudden turns or to hit turbulence, which can be particularly challenging when performing delicate procedures such as attaching an IV or a catheter to a patient.

In addition to physical ailments, flight medics are also trained to handle patients with psychological episodes. At one point during the flight, a patient began demonstrating psychological symptoms and ended up taking another passenger hostage. The flight medics tried to talk him down, but when that failed, they tackled the man and subdued him.

Although the squadron trains during drill weekends, this particular training exercise allowed them the opportunity to work in a real-world situation flying aboard a Hercules.

“It’s a tremendous help because you continuously do it,” said Henson. “So if I’m on an aircraft and somebody’s going into cardiac arrest, I know because we’ve done it so many times. Now, it’s second nature.”

Training exercises such as this, combined with training throughout the year continue to ensure the 94th AES is able to perform its important mission of saving lives, no matter the location.

“It’s a very intense learning experience. I’ve been in 10 years, and I’ve been doing this for eight. I still learn stuff every day.”