News: AMC unit provides medevac support to Bagram
Story by 1st Lt. Alexis McGee
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The 172nd Airlift Wing from the Mississippi Air National Guard began one of its weekly medical evacuation missions from Jackson, Miss., Dec. 13, 2013.
The Air Mobility Command unit based out of Jackson, Miss., conducts medevac missions transporting service members from Southwest Asia to medical care out of theater for a variety of medical needs.
“We’ve brought home well over 25,000 patients,” said Col. James Hartline, 172nd Airlift Wing vice wing commander, and pilot during the Dec. 13 mission. “It is so impactful to be able to get people home and get them there quickly. Once they’re home, that’s where the rehabilitative treatment starts.”
While AMC units are engaged in much more than medevac missions, 1st Lt. Christine Zoerlein, mission copilot, said it’s a segment of the AMC mission she is proud to be a part of.
“We may not be on the front lines fighting, but many Service members are engaged in combat and it’s the least we can do to be their ambulance driver and get them home, especially around the holidays,” said Zoerlein, who is part of the five- to six-person crew that varies from mission to mission.
The airlift wing’s missions normally follow the same pattern: depart Jackson, Miss.; travel to Joint Base Andrews, Washington D.C.; then to Ramstein Air Base, Germany; then to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, where they pick up patients. Soon after landing in Bagram, cargo is unloaded, then reloaded with departing cargo and the patients are positioned on the aircraft, the aircrew departs again to repeat their same mission in reverse bringing the patients home.
“It might seem like a quick eight-day trip to the aircrew, but we’re saving lives indirectly,” said Zoerlein. “There is a 99 percent success rate if we get the injured patients to Ramstein and it’s great to be a part of that. We not only transport cargo, we transport people and help save their lives.”
Part of getting the service members home safe is getting the mission completed in a timely fashion. The 172nd Airlift Wing has been conducting the medevac mission since Oct. 2005 and since then; the crew has seen how important urgency is when transporting injured personnel.
“Our missions are fast paced and that’s just how AMC does business,” said Hartline. “We are able to launch out of Mississippi and be in Afghanistan three days later ready to take patients home and that’s an incredible piece of the mobility mission.”