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Vice Chairman Visits Aeromedical Staging Facility in Germany

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, April 22, 2012 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid a surprise visit to wounded warriors at an aeromedical staging facility here.

On the last leg of a tour with the United Service Organizations, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. and a variety of celebrities chatted and took photos with wounded warriors at the U.S. Air Force's 86th Contingency Aeromedical Staging facility on April 20. The wounded service members were awaiting transportation to other medical facilities.

“I think it was awesome and didn't expect it,” said Air Force Airman 1st Class Thomas O'Dell, a joint terminal attack controller, of the visit. “I expected just to come here for a day and wait for a flight. So it was really nice to see everybody.”

“It was nice to meet the admiral and talk to him,” he added. “He [was] a pilot, and I work with pilots. It's cool to hear the perspective of a high ranking person that's been in [the military] a long time.”

O'Dell said he was most excited to meet actor Dennis Haysbert because he used to watch the television show “24,” in which Haysbert played the president.

The USO Spring Tour traveled to Europe and the Middle East entertaining troops and families in Italy, Afghanistan, Southwest Asia and Germany. They returned to the United States April 20.

Before meeting with the wounded warriors, Winnefeld received a tour of the facility from Air Force Maj. Maria-Elena Coppola, the 86th CASF’s flight commander. Coppola explained the various staging points critical to a casualty's survivability in the continuum of care and about wounded warriors’ paths to continued treatment.

The 86th CASF is composed of 21 personnel stationed in Germany and about 76 deployed personnel who can be a mix of active-duty or reserve Air Force personnel, Coppola said. She noted there are also liaisons from the Army, Marine Corps and from coalition partner nations.

“Liaisons are Bulgarian, Czech Republic, [and] Georgian, making sure that those patients that come from [Central Command area of operations] actually have someone from their service, or at least from their nation, who can help them with their needs,” Coppola said.

The CASF contains doctors, nurses and medics who receive patients from the flight line and transport them up to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Coppola said. On their return mission, whether it’s down range or to one of our host countries, the same people pick those patients up at Landstuhl.

“We are not just a taxi service – we have nurses, medics and flight surgeons that continue their patient care,” she emphasized. “The standards of care do not decrease throughout their whole patient movement.”

As she briefed the vice chairman, Coppola noted the CASF began operating in March, 2003 and was originally across the street from its current location due to renovations.

“It actually used to be a flight simulator building,” she said. “When we moved over from across the street to this building, we actually had two patient bays and 25 beds each, and we're actually able to expand to 100 beds.

“We have 24/7 operations, and we support all scheduled and unscheduled air evacuation missions from CENTCOM as well as [European Command] missions,” Coppola explained. “And we are, in the last few years, seeing more patients from the Horn of Africa.”

Coppola noted the staging facility has had over 130,000 patient movements, which isn't actually the same number as the number of patients. She also said that, as of April 1, the CASF has had 26,000 patients.

Coppola told the vice chairman most patients are at the CASF “a little less than a day.”

“It's a little less than 24 hours … they spend the night with us, we address their needs, and take care of any items that they need,” she said. “[We're here] just to remind service members that their sacrifice is greatly appreciated.”

Winnefeld expressed his appreciation to the unit.

“Terrific [and] thanks for what you're doing,” he told Coppola and her staff.

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Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Winnefeld

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