By LTC John D. Goette, Jr.: It is an exciting time in the aeromedical evacuation community. The operational tempo for air ambulance units remains high as they balance the execution of one of the most important and most rewarding missions in the Army while balancing modernization efforts.
Company C, 2nd Battalion (General Support Aviation), 1st Aviation Regiment moves into its new hangar on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Nov. 9, 2016. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY JET FABARA
Air ambulance units continue to provide support to ongoing contingency operations world-wide; respond to natural disasters and other emergencies at home; provide installation MEDEVAC support; as well as conducting all the tasks required to maintain readiness. At the same time, we are in the process of modernizing a significant portion of the air ambulance fleet to HH-60Ms and will soon (FY22) begin upgrades to the UH-60V for the rest of the fleet. In conjunction, we are improving the MEDEVAC mission equipment packages (MEP) for these platforms; refining the Medical Equipment Sets (MES); and looking into the distant future, where plans for fielding a Future Vertical Lift (FVL) air ambulance platform become a reality. Our air ambulance companies are experiencing a “manpower modernization” with the transition of the Flight Medic (68WF3) to the highly skilled Critical Care Flight Paramedic (68WF2). With all this going on, it is a dynamic and turbulent environment for the Aeromedical Evacuation community. However, the community is ably rising to these challenges.
The high operational tempo of our MEDEVAC formations continues into 2017. MEDEVAC companies from all components (COMPOs) are deployed in support of operations around the globe. For the rest, they are providing Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA), meeting rotational requirements, and honing their skills at our combat training centers and various exercises. Additionally, we are experiencing a paradigm shift back to how installations were supported prior to 2005. Active duty MEDEVAC units are providing 24/7 support at several installations to ensure patients are rapidly evacuated to the appropriate medical treatment facility while ensuring the seamless continuum of care. What’s remarkable is that the air ambulance formations are executing all of this as we continue to modernize our platforms, equipment and grow the Critical Care Flight Paramedic.
German Soldiers load a simulated casualty on board a HH-60M from 1st Battalion (Gen. Spt. Avn.), 111th Avn. Regt. in Iraq Aug. 20, 2016. This training event provided an opportunity to familiarize our coalition partners with U.S. Army MEDEVAC procedures and equipment. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SSG PETER BERARDI
On the modernization front, we have crossed over the half-way point in fielding the HH-60M. The production and fielding of the BAM window, Interim MEDEVAC Mission Support System (IMMSS) and ESSS mounted hoist systems continues to progress. We look forward to the production of the UH-60V. The UH-60V is a post-recapitalized UH-60L system with the UH-60V Cockpit Kit installed. The UH-60V Cockpit Kit will update the existing UH-60L analog architecture to a digital infrastructure enabling the aircraft to have a similar Pilot-Vehicle Interface (PVI) and interoperability to the UH-60M. The first UH-60V test flight was successfully conducted in January 2017 at Redstone Arsenal. The MEDEVAC UH-60Vs are scheduled to be outfitted with the MEDEVAC mission equipment package which includes IMMSS, nose-mounted Talon Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and integrated external rescue hoist. At endstate, the MEDEVAC community will achieve better commonality with its platforms. MEDEVAC units will execute the mission with one of three platforms including the HH-60M, UH-60V and the LUH-72.
Critical Care Flight Paramedics
The training of Critical Care Flight Paramedics (CCFP) continues to gain momentum across all three COMPOs. The Army Medical Department (AMEDD) instituted the CCFP program in 2012 to train MOS 68W flight medics to National Registry Paramedic and critical care standards. The CCFP provides a unique skillset with extensive medical education and enhanced training in life sustaining skills. These Soldiers provide a medical capability that now closely aligns with U.S. civilian standards for helicopter EMS ‘Life Flight’ providers. They perform emergency medical treatment and critical care in remote and isolated operational environments in the absence of medical officers.
Although a significant investment in time, the training and skills gained have significantly improved patient care during MEDEVAC missions. Initial studies indicate that the employment of CCFPs can provide a significant reduction in casualty mortality. Preliminary operational comparison indicates that the CCFP can be instrumental in reducing mortality rates over the standard Flight Medic in the first 48 hours from an average of 15% to an average of 8%. The CCFP program consists of three courses. The Flight Paramedic Course is an intense 26 week course which prepares the flight medic to take the National Registry Paramedic exam. The Critical Care Paramedic Course is an eight week program which includes 240 clinical hours where the flight paramedic hones his/ her skills. The third course is the AMEDD Aviation Crewmember Course (A2C2). Taught at Fort Rucker, Alabama the A2C2 operationalizes the CCFP’s skills in an aviation environment over a five week period. Once the Soldier satisfies the requirements of the three courses, they are awarded the Additional Skill Identifier (ASI) F2, recognizing them as a trained Critical Care Flight Paramedic. We have seen steady progress in terms of trained CCFPs across the COMPOs and the results are already being realized on today’s battlefield where improved care is being delivered to our wounded Soldiers.
The Medical Evacuation Proponency Division (MEPD) team here at Fort Rucker continues its support to the force. As the capability developer for Army Aeromedical Evacuation, we continue to provide guidance and direction for the development of medical evacuation operational concepts and capability requirements across unified land operations for AMEDD. The MEPD team and stakeholders from across the Aeromedical Evacuation enterprise are constantly assessing the Army’s MEDEVAC capabilities. The Aeromedical Evacuation enterprise is a collaborative team of AMEDD and Aviation directorates and commands working together to coordinate and solve Army aeromedical evacuation specific issues that ultimately benefit the units and Soldiers performing the mission on the current and future battlefield. The enterprise is chaired by the Chief of MEPD and includes representatives from the Office of the Surgeon General; the Joint Staff; the U.S. Army Health Readiness Center of Excellence; HQDA DAMO-AV; U.S. Army Forces Command; National Guard Bureau; U.S. Army Reserve Command; Human Resources Command; Project Manager, MEDEVAC; Product Director, MEDEVAC; U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory; U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine; and Army Emergency Medical Services. Together, we are looking at ways to optimize the Aeromedical Evacuation Officer (67J) career path, continuing to foster the initial training and sustainment of Critical Care Flight Paramedics, ensuring the success of the UH-60V as a MEDEVAC platform, and are invested in the development of the FVL MEDEVAC platform.
Like much of the Army, the Aeromedical Evacuation force faces the challenges of providing unwavering support to the missions and workload demands of today while evolving the force to meet a complex and uncertain future. The MEPD team is here to assist with current issues and the future development of the Aeromedical Evacuation community. We are very proud of all our MEDEVAC organizations across the COMPOs as they continue to train and stand ready to provide the best enroute medical care for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, their Families, civilians and our partnered forces around the globe.
“Dedicated Unhesitating Support
To Our Fighting Forces”
LTC John D. Goette, Jr. is the deputy of the Medical Evacuation Proponency Division (MPED) of the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) located at Fort Rucker, AL.