Afghan Air Force medics critical in evacuation
Afghan Air Force medics, with help from coalition advisers, facilitated a critical medical evacuation effort recently as a result of a bombing in Herat Province that killed 22.
The medics, based at the AAF detachment in Herat, responded aboard a Mi-17 helicopter when a roadside bomb struck a crowded minibus traveling from the Obe district to the provincial capital.
According to officials with the coalition, the AAF helicopters were the only air assets that responded to the incident airlifting 12 patients from the site 45 miles to nearby Zafar hospital.
Of the three in critical condition, two were children but officials indicate all of the patients survived and are recovering.
“The AAF quickly launched aircraft within 30 minutes of notification. We moved many brutally wounded civilians, including women and children, from a makeshift landing zone to the closest hospital for immediate care,” said Maj. Karl Seekamp, Commander of the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Detachment 1.
Officials say the operation was significant because it demonstrated to the Afghan people in the area the capability of the AAF aircraft and crews to respond and provide immediate medical care during a crisis situation.
“After being in several districts throughout Afghanistan, Herat has the greatest potential and need for medical evacuation support, in my opinion, said Tech. Sgt. Steven Guillen, a medical adviser with the 838th AEAG. “Herat’s success in performing urgent medical evacuation missions is a role model for the country to follow. Serving their people in their time of need is something the AAF should be proud of.”
The medical evacuation mission in Herat was flown by a mixed crew of AAF and coalition pilots, flight engineers and two flying crew chiefs and medics.
Experts say for now, AAF and coalition crews fly together but nothing would prevent the AAF from flying missions by themselves with no oversight from coalition members.
With three current AAF helicopters ready for use, AAF members have conducted seven medical evacuation missions transferring 23 patients since the medical evacuation capability was launched in early July.
Medical advisers explained many of the patients evacuated thus far would not have survived their injuries without direct support of AAF helicopter and medics.
“The AAF is capable of transferring all kinds of patients with varying degrees of injuries,” said Seekamp. “It’s important for Afghans to see their government is a capable and credible force and there to help them when they need it most. This capability should be a source of pride for the Afghan people, government and AAF.”
In June, coalition and Afghan aircrew from the 738thAEAG transported physicians and medical supplies to the remote district of Ma’ruf in support of a cholera outbreak.
By Capt. Jamie Humphries - 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
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