KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A combined team of Afghan air force and coalition members conducted the first dedicated Mi-17 medical evacuation mission April 11 here.
The team moved an Afghan National Army officer, who incurred a compound leg fracture, from Camp Bastion back to Kandahar.
The planning for the inaugural mission began one month ago when Afghan air force Maj. Gen. Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the Afghan Kandahar Air Wing commander, set aside each Monday as a day dedicated for medical evacuation. Since then, medical evacuation crews have waited on alert for the call from the two most likely locations of Camp Bastion, just northwest of Lashkar Gah, or Forward Operating Base Tarin Kowt.
"We later got confirmation of the tasking from Regional Command Southwest that a patient needed transport," said Maj. Charla Quayle, from the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. "The Mi-17's were then prepped with a three-litter stanchion and medical equipment before takeoff."
The ANA officer incurred the fracture several months earlier and the healing process had not proceeded well, requiring a transfer to higher-level care in Kandahar. The transfer was the first test of the medics' newly established communication system and also provided Afghan flight medics an opportunity to demonstrate their clinical capabilities. The mission provided the opportunity to treat a patient with a possible high level of injuries.
"The mission was flown by me, Tech. Sgt. Steve Guillen and Fazal, our Afghan flight medic," Quayle said. "Our 'bird' had an American pilot and an Afghan pilot, and we also had an Afghan flight engineer, crew chief and translator. The other Mi-17 that flew the mission had Lithuanian and Afghan crew on it."
Not only were the advisors happy to successfully complete the mission, Fazal was also excited by the opportunity to help accomplish a "first" for Afghanistan.
"I am proud to be able to do my job and use my medical skills on a real mission," Fazal said.
Even though the evacuation went according to plan, the process of developing the plan took many hours and faced many challenges. The need for a reliable communication system provided the first test; obtaining dedicated flying hours while also facing maintenance issues provided further obstacles. With the odds against them, officials said successful mission completion was a critical step accomplished by Afghan medical professionals.
"Kandahar Air Wing's new limited rotary-wing medical evacuation mission is a critical step in supporting the requirements of the Afghan National Army Regional Corp commanders in southern Afghanistan," said Col. Brandon Clint, the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing surgeon general. "With time, experience and training, their capabilities will grow to assume greater tasks."
Finally, the crew of four Americans along with their Afghan counterparts and coalition partners were able to put their training and plan into action.
"Our Afghan flight medics are eager and ready to fly these missions," Quayle said. "We are happy that our diligence and hard work resulted in getting these guys airborne to do what they have been trained to do."
It is a privilege to be able to work side-by-side with health care professionals from this country who have made sacrifices to join the Afghan air force and be a part of the effort to improve things for themselves and the country as a whole. she said. This mission demonstrated key teamwork, cooperation and the communication we've been training for, and the results were flawless."
Article by Capt. Jamie Humphries, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs