24 August 2015

Warrior Sled Hockey Team Prepares for New Season

Christy Gardner, of the Women's National Team, plays with her dog Moxie as she anticipates Gardner throwing a puck to fetch. The San Antonio Rampage sled hockey team is made up of wounded warriors and is sponsored by the Rampage and Operation Comfort. They practiced at the Ice and Gold Center at Northwoods on Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo: Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News.

Made up of injured, ill and wounded veterans, service members and civilians — men and women alike — the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey Team is preparing for a new season of competition. The team just completed a grueling three-day training camp, with three-hour practices. From Sept. 2-22, they’ll test their skills against the South Korean national team at practices and games at the rink at 17530 Henderson Pass.

The team formed in 2007 with a handful of members. It’s grown to a roster of more than 20. Three of the players: Rico Roman, Jen Lee and Josh Sweeney, played on the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The team has won two Northwest league championships.

Read more at the San Antonio Express News.

18 August 2015

Air Force Medical Evacuation Team provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron provide in flight medical care to injured service members on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that departed Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, heading for medical care in Germany, August 2015. The 455th EAES Airmen are charged with the responsibility of evacuating the sick and wounded from Central Command to higher echelons of medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman/Released)

455th EAES provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - After an Aug. 7 attack on a U.S. military installation in Kabul left service members injured, getting them from the battlefield to higher-level care in Germany was a task assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

While the injured service members were stabilized and prepped for movement in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital here, the 455th EAES alerted aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport teams to get a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ready to carry patients and provide medical care in flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“Aeromedical evacuation has a vital mission here at Bagram; it’s a significant part of our nation's airpower and mobility resources,” said Col. Diane Difrancesco, 455th EAES commander deployed from the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. “The 455th EAES is the sole AE hub in the Afghanistan theater of operations. We serve as a specially trained team to sustain human life. We’re mission critical for patient movement to a higher level of care.”

The AE team is responsible for prepping the aircraft with the required medical equipment and providing additional support to the CCATT members, who act as an airborne intensive care unit for critically injured Service members.

The CCATT is a three-person, highly specialized medical team consisting of a physician who specializes in an area of critical care or emergency medicine, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist. Their primary focus is on the care of critical patients while onboard the aircraft.

“As the medical crew director, my responsibility was overseeing the overall mission of getting the patients moved from Bagram to Ramstein,” said Maj. Jonathan Freeman, 455th EAES flight nurse deployed from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 156th AES. “As the MCD, I was responsible for coordinating requirements with the C-17 aircrew, ensuring the aircraft was properly configured and to integrate the AE team with the CCATT team to provide safe medical care for the patients.”

According to Freeman, the patients on the flight were some of the worst he had seen but he had confidence the entire medical team’s expertise would ensure a successful mission.

“I was impressed with everyone on the team and it made it easy for me to focus on my responsibilities as the MCD. These are sharp professionals who know what they are doing. I felt really good about our mission because it is the best care you can get,” said Freeman.

One of those highly trained professionals on the mission was Senior Airman Margaret “Maggie” Mathewes, 455th EAES AE technician deployed from the Air Force Reserve’s 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

“Each AE crew consists of two flight nurses and three med techs. As nationally certified EMTs, we’re able to assist the flight nurses in the care of patients while enroute to a higher level of care,” said Mathewes. “It is the teamwork of the entire crew that ensures proper aircraft setup and functioning medical equipment for a safe and successful movement of the patients."

Mathewes said it’s satisfying to be part of the AE community.

“The entire AE system is a wonderful service that is provided to the men and women that serve our country. Being a part of that system—being able to move the sick and injured to a higher level of care and thus increasing their chances of recovering—is just very humbling," said Mathewes.

Freeman said the motivation, enthusiasm and professionalism of the Total Force team of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen serving as aircrew, AE and CCATT ensured the best continuation of care for the service members.

“It is tough dealing with the bad stuff that comes with this job, but it’s definitely rewarding to know you made a difference by providing critical care for those men and women who are serving on the front line for our country,” Freeman said. “It was a very good mission…we got them from the battlefield to higher-level care and that is what we do.”

According to Difrancesco, she was proud of the contributions of the AE team and said they were critical to saving the lives of the injured service members.

“This team of Airmen made a monumental life-saving contribution to those battle injured service members. Without our team those wounded warriors may not be alive today,” said Difrancesco.

15 August 2015

Wounded soldier fulfills dream of coaching football

Sergeant Kevin Downs suffered nearly fatal injuries in an attack on his Humvee in Iraq in 2005. Three other soldiers with him died.

When the Harpeth High School Indians take the football field this season, among the coaching staff is an American hero who almost lost his life 10 years ago this week.

Sergeant Kevin Downs was serving in Iraq in 2005 when the Humvee he was riding in with three other soldiers was hit by a bomb attack.

Everyone in the vehicle died, but Sgt. Downs. He survived but lost both his legs, suffered second and third degree burns over much of his body and suffered severe damage to his arms.

As for this football season, Sgt. Downs wants a lot of wins and for his players to remember this lesson.

“Don’t give up,” he said. “Get back up and try it again. Just get better each time because giving up is not something you can do.”

Read his incredible story and watch the video here.

07 August 2015

Purple Heart Day

Today is Purple Heart Day. On August 7, 1782, General George Washington - then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army - established the Purple Heart award, originally designated as the Badge of Military Merit.

The Purple Heart exists in its current form since 1932, and is awarded to service members "wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces".

During World War II, almost 500,000 Purple Heart medals were produced in anticipation of the huge number of casualties estimated to result from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. The invasion never happened due to the dropping of the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, the total combined casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number, so the Purple Heart medals awarded today are part of that stock.

As of 2010, a total of over 1,900,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded in our nation's history - over 35,000 to service members for wounds sustained in the Iraq War and over 7000 for the war in Afghanistan.