News: Chinook patient transfer supports Operation Moshtarak
Story by Sgt. Aubree Rundle
AFGHANISTAN—As coalition and Afghan forces advance through Taliban strongholds in the Districts of Marjah and Nad Ali, the wages of war continue to call upon the medical evacuation of joint-force and Afghan local casualties affected by enemy combatants.
Two primary field hospitals in Helmand province are the receiving points of such casualties; when these sites go "Amber" on bed space and critical patients require a higher level of treatment, the mission to transfer the patient becomes priority.
Primarily used for cargo re-supply and support to air assault operations, CH-47F Chinook helicopters from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment "Flippers," have been configured to support Operation Moshtarak. They provide patient transfers from field hospitals in Helmand province to higher level care facilities in Regional Command-South.
"RC-South Headquarters in conjunction with [82nd Combat Aviation Brigade] Task Force Pegasus developed a concept of patient retrieval using CH-47 with medical escorts [to provide] more space and a better environment to enable care of high dependency, and large volumes of patients to be moved [if necessary],"said Col. Martin CM Bricknell, RC-South medical director, U.K. Royal Army Medical Corps.
The 82nd CAB's medical evacuation company, Company C, 3rd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (DUSTOFF) executes primary responsibility for the evacuation of patients from points of injury by means of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with supporting medevac components from the U.S. Air Force's Task Force Pedro. In addition to medevac, patient transfer and casualty treatment teams have been integrated into the evacuation mission to ensure the continued care of wounded and expand rotary wing support to ground forces and local Afghans in need.
Flight surgeons, physician's assistance and medics from Task Force Pegasus, deployed to southern Afghanistan, are on standby as casualty-evacuation teams for patient transfer responsible for stabilizing and continuing treatment of patients while in-route to their intended hospital.
"We laid out all of our equipment and went through every conceivable scenario we could think of," said Capt. Bryan Johnson, flight surgeon for Task Force Pegasus, regarding preparation for initiating patient transfer operations. "Successful treatment at any level hinges upon expecting the unexpected. For instance, the routine transfer of an ambulatory patient can end up as the urgent transfer of a litter patient."
A mission normally accomplished by DUSTOFF MEDEVAC, the CH-47 Chinooks and casualty-evacuation teams assist the patient retrieval mission allowing the continuance and successful execution of of POI missions and patient transfers without any gaps in medevac coverage throughout the 82nd CAB area of operations, said Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Kindle, Medical Operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge, TF Pegasus.
"It is amazing how everyone involved has gone directly from a routine sick call environment to a largely unknown medical environment, and they work as though they've been performing patient transfers the entire deployment," said Johnson. "I have to give my [noncommissioned officers] the credit for conducting daily training with the medics this past year in anticipation that one day they would be called out for the very missions we are currently participating in."
"My mission is to assist [medical doctors on board] in maintaining the stability and safety of patients by checking their vital signs frequently [while in flight], maintaining oxygen sources for patients and providing proper medical dosages [if required]," said Spc. Pamela Powers, medic, TF Pegasus.
Chinooks can carry both litter and walking-ambulatory patients, allowing each case to be monitored and treated by these teams in-route to hospitals. In using this helicopter, U.S. Army aviation provides the possibility of more patients to be moved in one-lift and space necessary to monitor multiple cases at the same time.
"Injury is a bi-product of war, therefore it is our responsibility to improve and maintain the lives of wounded [International Security Assistance Forces, Afghan National Security Forces] and the people of Afghanistan whenever needed—w e are capable and have the means to do this," said Capt. Ryan Rodriguez, aero medical physician assistant, TF Pegasus. "[Our mission while conducting a patient transfer is to] preserve, stabilize and improve life within our scope of practice. Transport patient while providing in-route care to a higher echelon of healthcare."
Both Johnson and Rodriguez have participated in patient transfer mission moving injured Afghan National Army soldiers, local Afghans and even detainees from field hospitals in Helmand province shortly after Operation Moshtarak began.
On case in specific required both medical officers accompanied by additional casualty- evacuation teams from the 82nd CAB responded to a patient transfer request of 11 individuals - a family affected by a mortar attack near their compound. The majority of the patients were walking ambulatory, meaning they didn't require transfer by litter carry. They were also Afghan children.
During the hours of darkness two CH-47F Chinook helicopters responded to the patient transfer request to move the family from FOB Bastion Role 3 hospital to Kandahar Regional Military Hospital - the primary Afghan-led hospital in the southern region of Afghanistan.
"Regardless of NATO forces, ANA, local Afghans or Taliban, it is my belief that despite the detainee's 'obvious' intent before the infliction of injury, we must treat their lives as we do our allies," said Rodriguez. "This is the direction those involved with this conflict must take if we are to ever live in peace. We set the example in an attempt to set a standard of living."
Treating Afghan Locals injured by enemy attacks, coalition and Afghan forces wounded while engaged in combat, and detainees, medical evacuation and patient transfer requests continue to receive the support of medical evacuation and transfer from 82nd CAB rotary wing assets in southern Afghanistan.