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    Phoenix 8 rises to challenge

    451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Detachment 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility

    Photo By Adrian Cadiz | Members of the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Detachment 1...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary 

    United States Air Forces Central     

    CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – The transfer of patients from one location to the next requires planning. Similar to a coach’s playbook, the Phoenix coordinator here plans his assets around patient movement. As with different plays executed on the field, changes have ripple effects the Phoenix 8 must rise above and accommodate in order achieve mission success.

    “The medical coordinator is the central figure who holds all the moving pieces of a [patient transfer] mission together,” said Lt. Col. Barbara Persons, 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Detachment 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility commander.

    Mission coordinators, or Phoenix 8, are the mission’s foreman making sure everyone is tied together and there is a safe and efficient transition of patients from the ambulance onto the plane.

    “Without a mission coordinator, you wouldn’t have that person available to make sure everything goes as planned or as close to plan as possible,” said Senior Airman Mike Johnson, 451st EAES Det. 1 CASF aerospace medical technician. “It’s the person who can overcome any deviations to the original game plan.”

    A Phoenix 8 is never idle. When a mission “drops,” or is being built, his mind immediately goes into coordination mode.

    “I immediately start running through different scenarios and begin considering who I need filling all the roles that we have such as who will handle baggage and who will help with litters,” Airman Johnson said.
    When he first was selected as a Phoenix 8, his nerves got the better of him. Over time, he has become comfortable in how to coordinate a patient transfer.

    “The first couple of times, I was really nervous and all over the place,” said Airman Johnson, a Reservist from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn. “But, after a few times, I became comfortable with the process and learned how to better anticipate and plan for things. I guess you can say that I became more comfortable in this role and how to coordinate patient movement.”

    Always interested in serving his country, Airman Johnson never ruled out joining. At 25 years old with an established career as a police officer, he joined the Reserves.

    “Police is considered paramilitary so it really helped out a lot when I went through [basic military training at Lackland AFB, Texas),” said the Phoenix 8, a police officer in his civilian life. “Police work has really helped me transition into the military and the military has helped me in my police work.”

    With aspirations of someday becoming a special weapons assault team medic, Airman Johnson sought a career in the Reserves in the medical field.

    “Being in the Reserves as a medic will only help set me up for one of my goals,” the Airman said. “Eventually, I want to become a SWAT medic. With all this training, it will be a lot more attainable goal and a good combination of both my careers.”

    In many ways, the Air Force saw his age and experience as a police officer as an asset. His leadership’s philosophy is to pair an individual’s experience with a job rather than fit a rank to the person.

    “It’s important that I know the people I work with,” Lt. Col. Persons said. “If I can figure out what a person wants to gain from certain things, I try to make sure that happens. With Airman Johnson, it was to expand his leadership skills and he’s been a perfect choice for the Phoenix 8 position.”

    For this reason alone, Airman Johnson believes the Air Force has been a good fit for him.

    “Sometimes with other branches, they see that I am an E-4 and will look for someone else to answer their question,” he said. “So with the Air Force, I get a chance to prove myself based on my job performance.”
    Airman Johnson’s professionalism and ability to maintain his bearing in harried situations has won over his peers.

    “Airman Johnson is really sensational,” said Capt. Zoe Woolston, 451st EAES Det. 1 CASF clinical nurse. “He really has shined out here. He has stepped up in this role and just performed exceptionally. You would never think by watching him that he’s a senior airman. He’s a leader and he really works hard to make sure everything is working as smoothly as it can out here.”

    Coming out on this deployment, Airman Johnson felt he was completely prepared and felt secure in the knowledge that he knew what to expect. But, as he soon came to realize, hearing stories and experiencing it firsthand are two entirely different things.

    “We do CASF training but we’ve never done it for real. But the training is spot on and all the procedurals they run us through are the same stateside as they are in a deployed environment so that was comforting.”
    One thing all the training couldn’t prepare him for was witnessing the devastation war plays on the Service members here.

    “I wasn’t prepared to see war so up close as I do,” Airman Johnson said. “You realize that you’re here to help them, get them the care they need and know that at the end of the day, you are helping get them home or to the care they need.”

    The significance of the mission the CASF team performs not something Airman Johnson has become numb to.

    “It makes me really proud to be able to help them,” he said. “They have put so much on the line already just coming out here. They put on their body armor and helmets in 110-degree heat and go outside the wire to do dangerous things knowing the possibility exists that they might get hurt. The least I can do is make sure that when they come to us, they get the best possible treatment we can give.”

    (Editor’s Note: Airman Johnson will pin on the rank of staff sergeant June 1.)



    Date Taken: 05.28.2011
    Date Posted: 05.28.2011 04:54
    Story ID: 71240
    Location: CAMP BASTION, AF 

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