17 August 2011

"Heartbreaking and uplifting": Air Evac Shows Commitment to Wounded

"There is a huge effort going on in Afghanistan and we've got to take care of these guys. I don't think the public really knows how many people are getting injured over here."

- Lt. Col. Terry Lonergan, a critical care transport doctor from the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, deployed to the 10th EAEF.

Another great video and story at Military.com.

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan – It is at once heartbreaking and uplifting; and it reveals the best of the US military while showing the worst and what they face.

Within the huge cargo bay of the C-17 Globemaster III the sick and wounded of the Afghanistan war sit in seats along the bulkhead or lay on litters bolted to the floor. Most of the servicemembers being evacuated on a recent morning flight could move on their own, but more than a half-dozen had to be carried aboard.

The aeromedical evacuation flight out of Bagram is just part of the long journey home for the war's wounded and sick. For many the medical treatment that began at a forward operating base led to air evacuation by a C-130 Hercules, the venerable cargo carrier that may also be configured for medical transport.

Craig is a level 3 facility which can provide the same quality of care and treatment you'd expect to find at a good U.S. hospital.

For those who can't be fully treated there, doctors and nurses ready them for air transport to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and the U.S. aboard the Globemaster or even a KC-135 Stratotankers. The tankers, though much smaller than the C-17, are able to carry cargo as well as fuel.

The aeromedical flights within and out of Afghanistan, and medical care provided all along the way, mean that 95 percent of troops still alive when they reach Craig will survive, officials say.

But even when the odds are grim, the effort to help critically wounded servicemembers testifies to the dedication of the medical teams. That was apparent in one case on a recent flight by a team of four captains whose sole mission was to sustain a single Soldier en route to Landstuhl.

The wounded man was comatose and both his legs were gone; the team regularly checked the array of tubes, instruments, bags and monitors stacked on a special tray that straddled his litter.

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