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NEWS | Oct. 21, 2016

AF global response force training tests readiness

By Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 633rd Medical Group’s Expeditionary Medical Support tested their rapid support capabilities with a medical global response force training mission Oct. 17 through21 at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia’s, Raptor Town, which is a small deployment compound nestled behind the flightline.

When a country is in need of medical relief and humanitarian aid, the EMEDs team here may get the call to deploy their 25-bed field hospital within 72 hours of notification depending on their turn in a yearly on-call rotation.

"You take leave with the understanding that if you get recalled, you have to come back. When we went to Liberia, I was at my Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary," said Senior Master Sgt. Curtis Miller, 633rd Medical Support Squadron superintendent. "I just got there…when I got the call. They said ‘you have six hours to be back at base.’”

The training opportunity focused on mirroring what medics like Miller have encountered in humanitarian support environments where their initial response mission is to provide basic medical, while others are providing aid.

“Here at Langley we have it all; the personnel, equipment, tents, everything needed to stand up and operate a 25-bed hospital,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Norman Fox, EMEDS commander. “We can go anywhere in the world in support of major combat, contingency, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, defense support of civil authorities or stability operations.”

Usually these types of exercises involve fake wounds and simulated ailments. This training included that, in addition, to real patients with basic medical needs that are often found in impoverished countries in need of humanitarian relief, said Keith Morgan, medical contingency planning official.

"A lot of times, this is the first sort of definitive care these people are seeing,” said Col. Susan Pietrykowski, 633rd Medical Group commander. “What we see as basic needs is a higher level of care for them."

For Maj. Aleacha Philson, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron pediatrics flight commander, the real-world training was vital in catching hiccups that could hinder such care during an actual humanitarian mission.

“Providing them with real patients helps them see what challenges they may be faced with,” said Philson. “It provides better feedback in the after-action report. We would rather get that now than when we have an actual real word global response mission.”

But, before the medics saw their first patients they set up their own tents, generators and systems in a building block style that allowed them to either add or take away hospital sections based on the crisis’ needs. At its full capacity the field hospital, which has to be operational within 60 hours of boots-on-the-ground, can provide care for a population at risk up to 6,500.

“When I was in Liberia we built our own perimeter fence, we produced our own power, set up our own communication system and tents; we did everything, “said Miller, who deployed to build the field hospital in support of Operation United Assistance.

For the training, once all was set up, it was time to provide real patient care for active duty members during which Miller’s primary training goal was put to the test.

“This is about going back to the basics in which we not only provide services to other people, but we’re actually looking out for each other,” said Miller. “Getting to know the people on your team and getting them to be able to function appropriately and effectively together is key. When I do take them down range and when we end up in that Haiti situation or Liberia situation, I know that I have a trusted team.”