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NEWS | Jan. 27, 2016

BMETs: Taking care of equipment that takes care of people

By Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to maintaining patient care, medical personnel at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley rely on  U.S. Airmen behind the scenes to come running when equipment is in need of a troubleshoot or repair.

Whether medical imaging equipment, defibrillators or surgical or clinical laboratory machinery, equipment will always require preventative and corrective maintenance and the biomedical equipment technicians are here to help.

"The Air Force's main mission is to get planes in the air for the warfighting effort," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Lynch, 633rd Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician. "We have to maintain everything that helps medical personnel get these people in and out the door quickly and effectively and back in the air."

As highly-skilled technicians, Langley BMETs are entrusted to ensure an estimated 5,300 pieces of medical equipment are in working condition to help serve patients' medical needs.

Servicing equipment with a total value of more than $45 million, the 12-member team completes an average of approximately 750 work orders each month, including regular maintenance of equipment within the hospital, fire department, ambulances, veterinary clinic and defibrillators used by units across the installation.

"Most procedures could not be done without equipment that has some sort of computer and electricity in it," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles Wolf II, 633rd MDSS biomedical equipment maintenance supervisor. "It's imperative that doctors have reliable results from the equipment that they can trust to treat their patients."

According to Wolf, BMETs must become the "Jack of all trades" of the medical field with training and knowledge of plumbing, electrical and computer systems administration. One thing that sets their job apart from other maintenance career fields is the requirement to be knowledgeable on certain facets of anatomy and physiology.

"We need to know what the equipment is supposed to do in order to be able to tell if it's doing its job correctly," said Wolf. "We need to understand the human body and how it reacts to the equipment so we can tell if it's something the machine is doing wrong and if so, what we can do to fix it."

As the technical experts in medical equipment repair, Wolf said he and his team remain vigilant and prepare to respond on site at a moment's notice.

"We always have someone on call," said Wolf. "We try to use spare machines first if we have them, but if not, we can come in and perform maintenance right in the middle of a procedure if necessary."

Though they may be behind the scenes, the job of a BMET is never finished and they maintain a vital importance to the overall Air Force mission.

"Our job is really important when it comes to saving lives," said Lynch. "We take care of the equipment that takes care of the people."