When most people think of Air Force Medical Service they are probably imagining the staff of the various clinics at the local military treatment center, and they would be right.
Whether working behind the glass barrier of the pharmacy, the private room of the mental health clinic, or in the laboratory, physicians are engaged in the vital mission of keeping beneficiaries healthy and the military ready.
However, there are many more Air Force medics.
“Air Force Medicine Exists To Protect Our Nation,” Air Force Surgeon General Says Lieutenant General Robert Miller. “In addition to providing medical care to military and non-military beneficiaries, Air Force medics play a key role in humanitarian aid, disaster relief and, of course, combat missions. , by providing essential medical and operational support to combatants, the nation, allies and partners.
Humanitarian aid missions push physicians out of their comfort zones and impose a new level of collaboration and coordination under difficult circumstances. These missions lay the foundation for establishing and maintaining positive relationships with allies and partners, while strengthening the medical capabilities of other nations.
a International Health Specialist Program was created over 20 years ago as part of AFMS Global health commitments the efforts of former US Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Paul K. Carlton Jr. to expand the operational reach of the Joint Forces.
International health specialists apply regional expertise, cultural skills and fluency in foreign languages to effectively engage with partner countries to forge meaningful relationships.
One of the many benefits of IHS missions is that they often create an opportunity for cooperation that may not have been considered before. In some cases, the sharing of much-needed medical expertise and knowledge paves the way for other types of military engagements in the future. These small victories support the nation and the whole National defense strategy in a way that typical military or diplomatic efforts may never have achieved. As a result, peace and stability are enhanced.
For example, a humanitarian medical mission with Laos in 2007 eased tensions between the two countries dating back to the mid-1970s. Air Force medics paved the way for more bilateral engagements, marking the first time. in nearly three decades the Department of Defense had engaged with the Laotian army.
A shift in focus from simply providing routine medical care to influencing a larger part of the operational mission is of enormous benefit to many Air Force medics.
“Air Force Medicine is built on a commitment to our mission and caring for our patients. This is true on the battlefield, in the flooded streets of our coastal communities, in humanitarian missions with partner countries and in our daily practice. “ Lieutenant-General Robert Miller, Air Force Surgeon General
“Being a specialist in international health requires adaptability, openness, ingenuity and a big picture. With a global vision, we can develop whole-of-government solutions when unexpected global crises arise, ”said Master Sgt. Mouhamed Gadiaga, head of the International Health Specialist program.
“When I became a specialist in international health, it all happened. It was the first time that I could truly see how my actions, and the actions of my nursing colleagues, really contribute to our national security strategy, ”said Colonel Donna Hornberger, International Health Specialist.
In the aftermath of devastation or in underserved areas of the world, the unique capabilities Air Force medics bring to the table are essential to saving lives. These highly trained professionals remain ready and prepared to deploy in any size of package required by the mission, and often deploy with limited equipment and supplies.
Once mobilized, support can range from aero-medical evacuations, staging patients and any level of care in mobile medical clinics, to bioenvironmental engineers checking for hazards and everything in between.
While these missions positively impact those who receive support, Airmen also benefit by honing their skills and dealing with injuries that are difficult to simulate in a training environment.
“When we are working in garrison, we have extra medics, technicians and machinery available if something goes wrong,” said Captain Kimpreet Kaur, anesthesiologist with the 59th Medical Wing. “These limited conditions [in disaster relief missions] help us prepare for what we might see if we deploy in the future, which in turn will help us save countless lives.
Air Force medics have participated in disaster relief missions since the early days of AFMS, as part of the Air Force Disaster Assistance Team. In recent years, Air Force medics have responded to everything from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions to the ongoing pandemic.
Most recently, a disaster response team deployed to Haiti to assist in the aftermath of an earthquake on August 14.
“The response to natural disasters is separate from the combat mission [for combat deployments] you usually know when your unit is deployed months in advance, it involves a bit of planning and you have time to train, ”said Lt. Col. Amanda Hill, commander of the 140th Medical Group. “Compared to natural disasters that are not… predictable, you need to be able to respond within hours and effectively deploy your skills under the most difficult circumstances. “
When the COVID-19[female[feminine pandemic was threatening the nation, medics found themselves on the front lines using their skills in unprecedented ways and augmenting their civilian counterparts to fight a new virus that there was not much information about to begin with.
The adaptability of Air Force medics was particularly important when deploying to the United States.
Between April and June 2021, the 375th Medical Group of Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, has deployed 39 physicians to the Community Vaccination Center in Grand Rapids, Mich., And the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota area in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency response, vaccinating thousands of people.
“The number of people vaccinated is certainly impressive, but one of our greatest accomplishments is the lasting positive impression we have forged with the community,” said Captain Richard Larson, nurse practitioner from 375 Care Operations Squadron. health. “This community will know that when their people suffered and needed help, our military responded to their call.
Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020, hundreds of Air Force medics have been deployed and thousands remain on standby, supporting communities in need across the United States
Lessons learned from humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions, combined with formal education, training and partnerships with civilian hospitals, prepare Air Force medics to save lives in combat , both on the ground and in the air.
On August 26, three C-17 Globemaster III aircraft with aeromedical assessment teams and Intensive care airlift crews launched to evacuate injured US servicemen and Afghan nationals following the Kabul airport bombing.
Air Force medics treated multitudes of sick and injured personnel in the air and at every stopover to the United States
“In medicine, we sometimes isolate ourselves behind the four walls of the healthcare establishment. But medicine isn’t just about seeing patients or doing clinical work. It’s bigger than that, ”Miller said.
No matter where Air Force medics go, they bring with them unique capabilities and experience to seamlessly coordinate and execute successful missions.
The Air Force’s ability to adapt to humanitarian aid, disaster relief and combat missions makes it a common trifecta providing reliable and trusted care wherever the nation calls it.
“Air Force Medicine is built on a commitment to our mission and caring for our patients. This is true on the battlefield, in the flooded streets of our coastal communities, in humanitarian missions with partner countries and in our daily practice. Every medical aviator should be proud of their ability to support these commitments, ”Miller said.