Nine members of the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron deployed on April 23 to Travis Air Force Base, California, as part of COVID Task Force West.
The airmen have been tasked to set up a new Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team for the Air Force’s COVID patient transport operations. Working in a makeshift office space at Travis Air Base, the Wyoming airmen are acting as the operations directors for advanced trained aeromedical evacuation crews.
“Specifically, the Wyoming team is tracking Department of Defense COVID patient movements, incoming and outgoing medical crews and aircraft missions. They are also responsible for tracking flight training and currency as well as maintaining 800 pounds of medical equipment for each aircrew, and the safe on and offload of the Transportation Isolation System (TIS)” said Major Melissa Stevens, executive officer of the 187th AES.
The TIS was initially designed and built for patient transport during the West African Ebola outbreak but was first used operationally on April 10, 2020, to transport U.S. government contractors who tested positive for coronavirus from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base. The tracking of these critical medical crews is one of the key functions of the Wyoming guardsmen.
“Having crews that are ready to fly per Air Force regulations is a full-time job”, said Master Sgt. Michael Hensala, health systems specialist of the 187th AES.
“The aeromedical crews flying these COVID patients are also facing a new challenge due to the number of medical personnel on each crew. A typical crew is two flight nurses and three EMTs. These crews consist of a seven-person medical crew with three flight nurses and four EMTs, a three-person critical care air transport team consisting of one doctor, one critical care nurse, one respiratory therapist, and additional infectious disease specialists and Transportation Isolation System (TIS) repair technicians”, added Hensala.
The initial tasking requested that the Wyoming airmen deploy for 120 days with a provision to swap members out at 60 days. COVID Task Force West is one part of the Air Force’s overall COVID responses with multiple hubs across the continental United States, Pacific Air Force and European theaters of operation.