Feature   Defense News

Medics Train at Ramstein for COVID-19 Response

Aug. 12, 2020 | BY AIR FORCE STAFF SGT. KIRBY TURBAK , 86th Airlift Wing

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have adapted to and overcome an array of unanticipated situations. Medics within the Kaiserslautern Military Community in Germany have done, and continue to do, just that. On July 14, members of the Air Mobility Command arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to teach local medical instructors how to respond to a number of situations that could happen with a negatively pressured conex, a device used to safely transport passengers and medical personnel in the midst of a viral outbreak.

Military personnel training.
Group Photo
Medics from the Kaiserslautern Military Community and medical instructors from Air Mobility Command participate in training scenarios inside a negatively pressured conex at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 14, 2020. NPC instructors from AMC trained Kaiserslautern medics fto aid in their support for the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command pandemic response.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Kirby Turbak
VIRIN: 200714-F-IO516-0115M

"We have a large group of individuals coming together from the 86th Medical Group and the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron to form a COVID-19 team," Air Force Capt. JD Pilger, 86th AES interim training flight commander, said. The training equips the Europe-based trainers to implement the U.S. Air Forces in Europe for movement of patients for U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command, he added. 

While there hasn't been a large demand for NPC teams within Europe, military medics know it's best to be prepared.

"There's not a huge demand within Eucom currently, but we're training, getting ready so if there is a demand, we're ready to go," Pilger said. "There's not going to be any delay, we'll be able to start moving patients Day One."

A nurse donning an emergency passenger oxygen system.
Training Exercise
Air Force Maj. Joshua Williams, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron clinical nurse specialist, dons an emergency passenger oxygen system during a training scenario at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 14, 2020. Ramstein medics went through roughly 15 training scenarios that could happen in a negatively pressured conex.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Kirby Turbak
VIRIN: 200714-F-IO516-0237M

Building up and preparing these teams is important. COVID-19 may not be the only global pandemic they are called on to combat.

"Going forward, we can use these units for potential outbreaks like Ebola and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, which have a higher mortality rate," Pilger said. "It's important to maintain our NPC protocols for anything else in the future."

The AMC instructors ran the medics through the gamut of real-life scenarios.

"We covered around 15 different scenarios today," Pilger said. "Anywhere from a patient emergency, where they have a cardiac arrest and we're having to perform lifesaving maneuvers to bring them back, [to] a personal protective equipment breach and we have to decontaminate ourselves so we don't get infected."

A medic opens the door to a negatively pressured conex.
Open the Door
A medic opens the door to the negatively pressured conex at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 14, 2020. An NPC is a containment unit designed to allow in-flight medical care for patients with diseases such as COVID-19 while minimizing the possible spread of infectious diseases to medical personnel and aircrew on board.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Kirby Turbak
VIRIN: 200714-F-IO516-0317M

Fighting COVID-19 is an all-hands-on-deck fight, and it's important for medics from different units to be able to work as a single team, Pilger noted.

"We had a great job with everyone coming together," Pilger said. "We've come together communicating and coordinating. We'll be ready to start taking live patients if the demand is there."