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Aerospace medical technicians 'middlemen' to recovery

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cynthia A. Innocenti
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar—The movement of patients from a war zone to a hospital doesn’t happen instantaneously; there are many stages between the departure and arrival of those individuals to their final destination.


To assist with that journey, aerospace medical technicians with the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group ensure their brothers and sisters in the armed services are provided a safe and tranquil environment while at Al Udeid AB.


Senior Airman Jordan Marshall, an aerospace medical technician with the 379th EMDG En-route Patient Staging Facility Team, explained that most patients they receive from within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, most commonly arriving from Iraq and Afghanistan, have suffered from severe mental trauma, physical trauma, or both. As aerospace medical technicians, it is their duty to get those patients where they need to go without delays and monitor them during their stay at the ERPSF to best help them recover.


“Sometimes we transport individuals who have experienced severe stress and it is paramount that we remove that individual from that stressful situation,” said Marshall. “Other times the patient will have been severely wounded and needs immediate medical attention that they may not have access to where they are.”


One of the ways these Airmen can track a patient’s needed movement is through a computer program called “TRAC2ES,” the Transportation Command Regulating and Command and Control Evacuation System, that the Airmen check every hour, 24 hours a day.


TRAC2ES provides technicians like Marshall a way to determine the number of patients inbound, their diagnosis, and the classification of their injuries. The Single Mobility System is also used by the team to monitor what flight the patient is on.


Once they have determined the patient’s needs, the Airmen will begin their preparations for movement including bed assignments, meals and type of care required once the patients are in the ERPSF.


“We act as the middlemen between the combat zone and a higher degree of care,” said Staff Sgt. Claire Niba, also an aerospace medical technician with 379th EMDG. “We are also a staging facility for patients transiting through; we provide a calm and safe place in the ERPSF for them to rest until departure.”


During the patient’s transition, the technicians also serve as coordinators between the various medical facilities and personnel who may be involved with their recovery.


“Because not all of our agencies like mental health and nurses from the ward are in one building, we have to keep the communication flowing between everyone involved so that if changes occur, we are prepared,” said Niba.


The 16 technicians who make up the team are Reserve Airmen deployed together from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. Since arriving here, their work in the ERPSF has provided a lasting impression.  


“As reservists we haven’t all had hands on experience fulfilling these types of missions,” said Master Sgt. Chanika Johnson, flight chief of the ERPSF team. “Carrying out this mission at Al Udeid has opened our eyes to the career field and given me and my team a chance to help those in the field.”


“It is rewarding having the ability to care for our brothers and sisters in the armed services,” added Niba.


While the time the team spends with patients is usually short, they take every moment they can to keep those they meet on the road to recovery.