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RODEO 2009: AE events supported by Patient Loading System

Turkish team members carry a gurney down the Patient Loading System ramp during aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Turkish team members carry a gurney down the Patient Loading System ramp during aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Turkish team members carry a gurney down the Patient Loading System ramp during aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Turkish team members carry a gurney down the Patient Loading System ramp during aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Turkish team members carry a gurney down the Patient Loading System ramp during aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Turkish team members carry a gurney down the Patient Loading System ramp during aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- For much of its service life of 50-plus years, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been an air refueler and cargo hauler. Since 2003; however, the tanker is also a primary aircraft for aeromedical evacuation missions across the globe.

The transition to AE missions was made possible by the development of the Patient Loading System, or PLS. For Air Mobility RODEO 2009 here, the PLS is in use for aeromedical evacuation competition and it's helping participants learn how to better work with it like they would in a deployed environment, said Master Sgt. Stacy Julian, superintendent of operations for the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McChord AFB.

"The PLS is ideally suited for what we're doing in RODEO competition," Sergeant Julian said. "Besides the KC-135, it can also be used with the KC-10 Extender."

The PLS is a specially-crafted metal ramp that can reach up to the side-loading entrances of a KC-135 or a KC-10. Sergeant Julian said the stand can be palletized and carried to whatever location needs it.

"The PLS is definitely an easier way to load patients into the KC-135 or the KC-10," said Sergeant Julian, a 25-year AE mission business veteran. "I know, from being recently deployed myself, the PLS is fully in use in the deployed theater. For example, I know it is used at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and throughout bases in the world to include bases in Europe and Asia."

Sergeant Julian said the system allows the KC-135 and the KC-10 to be an AE-capable aircraft and it opens more options to move critical case patients to get the help they need faster.

"That's why we also use it here in RODEO," Sergeant Julian said. "Not only are our Air Force crews getting more practice in using it, but so are our international teams. Having it here gives them familiarity with its capabilities."

Tech. Sgt. Seth Cullum, a KC-135R Stratotanker crew chief from the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell AFB, Kan., said the system is great for what it was designed to do.

"The KC-135, by nature is a plane designed to be a pure air refueler with the capability to carry some cargo," Sergeant Cullum said. "With this system, it helps us configure the plane to support patient support pallets and to get the patients in and out of the plane. I think it definitely is an excellent piece of equipment to have."

As part of the AE competition for RODEO, the PLS is set up in a static configuration on a KC-135 to evaluate everything from pre-flight to before take-off duties.

"It's worked well for us," Sergeant Julian said. "Our competitors are using it and learning from its use. It's an all-around win-win for the AE world - all thanks to Air Mobility RODEO."