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Survivors of Afghan Helicopter Crash Airlifted to Germany

American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Feb. 20, 2007 – Only hours after a helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, airmen from an aeromedical evacuation control team in Southwest Asia got 11 of 14 injured survivors onboard a C-17 Globemaster III bound for Germany.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Airmen from the 435th Aeromedical Staging Flight at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, unload 11 critically injured patients from an arriving C-17 Globemaster III. The injured troops had survived a helicopter crash in southeastern Afghanistan only hours earlier. Once loaded on the buses, they were taken to nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. U.S. Air Force photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"That really made a difference in saving lives," said Air Force Lt. Col. Lenora Cook, the evacuation control team chief.

Two other survivors were airlifted to Germany later, and one did not require evacuation. The Army Ch-47 Chinook helicopter carrying these servicemembers crashed early Feb. 18. Officials said the cause was a mechanical failure, and there were no reports of enemy fire.

Australian, Canadian, British, Dutch and American rescuers rendered life-saving care on site and put out a call to the Joint Patient Movement Requirement Center. Cook's team then located airlift, air evacuation crews and critical care air evacuation teams.

"In this case, two CCAT teams were needed," Cook said. "This was due to the extent of the injuries that included head and chest injuries, as well as multiple fractures. "There were seven ‘urgents’ and four ‘priority’ patients” who were moved from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Ramstein, she said.

Only hours after being found alive, 11 of the wounded soldiers and Marines began their seven-and-a-half-hour flight to Germany.

"It was a pretty hectic flight" said Air Force Capt. Karen Mackenzie, a trauma surgeon onboard with the critical care air evacuation team. "We had seven critical patients: ... head injuries, chest wounds, spinal fractures."

She said her team worked diligently to keep the patients stable during the long flight, adding that it was "absolutely imperative that we get these patients to a medical facility."

Shortly before 2 a.m., they touched down at Ramstein, where 20 servicemembers from the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility loaded the patients onto two buses for the short trip to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

In about an hour, the buses rolled out, leaving behind a cold and tired team from the CASF. The team’s shift leader, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Billy Bailey, summed up their feelings best. "It's what we're here for, to get the troops the care they need as fast as possible," he said.

(From Air Force News.)

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