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Care in the Air

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Cossaboom
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Dangers are always present in today’s world. Whether it is a category 5 hurricane hitting the East Coast leveling everything in its path or an intense fire fight in the heartland of Afghanistan, every day could be someone’s last. However, there is a squadron always ready at a moment’s notice to do whatever it takes to bring someone.

The 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron is one of four active duty AE units in the Air Force comprised of 122 members. Units like the 375th AES are the ones who transport the wounded from the frontlines to higher-stage medical facilities while providing life-saving care at 30,000 feet in the air.

“We are sort of a flying hospital,” said Master Sgt. Angel Curiel, 375th AES Standards and Evaluations flight chief. “We can do medical care on the plane to ensure they are safe, and they are getting everything they need until they can get back to an [higher-stage] hospital on the ground.”

In a hospital, there can be hundreds of doctors and nurses at any given time able to assist with almost any medical situation they may face, but AE Airmen don’t have that luxury.

Capt. Crystal Gomez, 375th AES flight nurse, said, “In the hospital on the ground you have all the resources available to you. When we are flying in the air, we are flying with two nurses and three medical technicians, so we base our various clinical experiences and use those experiences to take care of our patients. So when we are in the air, the resources that we take onboard the aircraft with us, that’s what we have.”

AE is not a career field that one can join straight out of basic military training—one has to apply and be selected for it. All AE Airmen are part of a medical career field, hold the rank of at least senior airman, and have extensive medical training. This is to ensure those who are selected from the prestigious service are the best of the best, and capable of dealing with stressful situations in small teams.

Curiel explained that they train each day whether on static aircraft on the ground or on routine flying missions aboard various aircraft configured for AE patients

Whether it is on a C-21, C-17 or even a C-5, a lot of work goes into getting an AE mission airborne. AE Airmen spend countless hours planning, inspecting gear and going over medical scenarios to prepare for what they may face, but they couldn’t do it all by themselves.

“We have a motto here, you can’t fly without supply,” said Capt. Willie Jones, 375th AES support flight commander. “So to be able to get the crews, nurses and technicians the necessary equipment they need, they rely on us heavily to be able to prepare their equipment, buy their equipment, and have it staged by the aircraft. We are also the ones who move the patients from the actual medical facilities out to the aircraft.”

In 2018, the unit performed 354 patients’ movements throughout the continental United States and Pacific Command, while deploying 75 members of their squadron.

“You get to be that front line that tells them ‘we’re taking you out of that, we’re taking you back to a safe location, whatever you need I’m here for you,’” said Curiel. “The satisfaction is talking to that patient and seeing that look on that patient’s face and seeing them understand that they are finally taken care of, they’re finally safe.”

The world is full of uncertainty, but there is one thing that is certain. And that’s the fact that the members of the 375th AES are always training, always ready and always willing to give it their all to bring the sick and injured home