CAMP BASTION, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan -- The 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron serves as an ambulance of the air in Afghanistan.
Airmen of the 76th ERQS provide medical or casualty evacuation and personnel recovery for U.S. and coalition forces, Afghan National Security Forces and local nationals in all of the Regional Commands in Afghanistan.
The crew can reach almost any airfield in Afghanistan in an hour and a half from their home base in Helmund province. The squadron's operations fly under the call sign FEVER, which dates back to MEDEVAC missions flown in Vietnam and they hold fast to their roots. The two HC-130P "King" birds assigned are the only fixed wing aircraft dedicated to the MEDEVAC and personnel recovery mission in Afghanistan.
The King brings many unique capabilities to the fight.
"We're able to carry more patients and more medical personnel to treat patients in flight," said Lt. Col. Peter Dominicis, 76th ERQS commander.
The aircraft is capable of carrying six to nine litter patients or seven to 14 ambulatory patients, depending on the severity of the injuries. This gives the FEVER team the option to get more patients to medical facilities in one trip.
"We can also refuel helicopters and complete airdrop missions with precise accuracy," Dominicis continued.
The aircraft is also equipped with an air-to-land command and control system, which allows the crew to communicate in real-time with their operations center. This gives them the option to re-task a mission while still in the air, reducing response time. These capabilities make the unit the most flexible, expedient intra-theater fixed-wing MEDEVAC in the fight, according to the colonel.
"Monitoring all of the regional commands gives us great battle space awareness and our crews can act quickly to get where we need to be," Dominicis said. "It takes only 20 to 30 minutes to task a FEVER operation and have the aircraft in the air."
The flight crew consists of a pilot and copilot, navigator, flight engineer, radio operator and two loadmasters. The aircraft's medical compliment is made up of either an Air Force flight surgeon with two Army Critical Care nurses and two pararescuemen, or a Critical Care Air Transport Team with Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron personnel.
"We can get to the patient quickly, because we use a traditional rescue alert schedule," said 1st Lt. Nelson Willingham, HC-130 pilot. "As part of the rescue mission, we're designed to be ready to go if something happens. When we get the 9-line, we go."
A 9-line is a report, with nine lines of information on location, type and severity of injury, given from the ground to request medical evacuation for injured personnel. Willingham says the combination of the command and control element with the capabilities of the crew and aircraft gives them what they need for mission success.
"We fly twice as fast as the helicopters and can go farther without having to refuel," Willingham said. "The Critical Care Air Transport Team on board is trained in trauma care and has the equipment and the training to provide treatment in flight."
Since the current rotation assumed the alert on Dec. 1, 2011, the 76th ERQS has flown 190 missions, 90 of which saved life, limb or eyesight. Those numbers grow each day.
"When I was first interested in the Air Force and saw the rescue mission motto 'That others may live', and I thought it was really cool. I didn't really put it together when I signed up for the HC-130 that I would be part of that mission," said Willingham. "Now that I'm here it really hits home and it's incredibly rewarding."
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This work, 76th ERQS flies so that others may live, by TSgt Beth Anschutz, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.