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Mobility Airmen Conduct First Transport Isolation System Medevac Mission

April 13, 2020

Air Mobility Command aircrew and medical personnel conducted the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System to perform an aeromedical evacuation of three U.S. government contractors who tested positive for the coronavirus from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

An airman holding out illuminated flashlights faces a large cargo jet as he guides it into position on a dark flight line.
Aircraft Guidance
An airman, assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, marshals a C-17 Globemaster III transporting three COVID-19 patients from Afghanistan during the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System, April 10, 2020. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize contamination risk to aircrew and medical attendants, while allowing in-flight medical care for patients afflicted by a disease — in this case, COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine
VIRIN: 200410-F-BT441-1165A

Upon arrival April 10 at Ramstein, the patients were transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for treatment.

The mission, REACH 725, marked the first operational use of the TIS since its development during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the first movement of COVID-19 positive patients aboard U.S. Air Force aircraft. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize risk to aircrew, medical attendants, and the airframe, while allowing medical care to be provided to patients in-flight.

REACH 725 featured a full TIS force package, which includes one C-17 and aircrew carrying two TIS modules and medical support personnel, consisting of aeromedical evacuation specialists, critical care air transport team members, infectious diseases doctors and technicians, and TIS operators.

Airmen prepare to remove patients from an isolation chamber in the cargo bay of a large transport jet.
Offloading Patients
Airmen prepare to off-load COVID-19 patients during the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 10, 2020. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize contamination risk to aircrew and medical attendants, while allowing in-flight medical care for patients afflicted by a disease — in this case, COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine
VIRIN: 200410-F-BT441-1701A
Airmen wearing personal protective gear walk down the open ramp of a large transport jet.
Aircraft Exit
Three airmen exit a C-17 Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, following the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System, April 10, 2020. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize contamination risk to aircrew and medical attendants, while allowing in-flight medical care for patients afflicted by a disease - -in this case, COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine
VIRIN: 200410-F-BT441-2099A


Upon receipt of a warning order from U.S. Transportation Command on April 8, the 618th Air Operations Center tasked a TIS-trained AMC aircrew and medical team at Ramstein to prepare to execute the mission within 24 hours. Drawn from multiple specialties and units from across the Air Force, these airmen were pre-staged with a C-17 from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and TIS at Ramstein's 86th Airlift Wing in late March in anticipation of joint force, allied and partner requirements in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Since arriving, these airmen have trained to increase proficiency on the movement of infectious patients via the TIS.

Airmen wearing personal protective gear wait for patient documentation in the cargo bay of a large transport jet.
Standing By
Medical airmen await patient documentation following the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 10, 2020. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize contamination risk to aircrew and medical attendants, while allowing in-flight medical care for patients afflicted by a disease — in this case, COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine
VIRIN: 200410-F-BT441-2168A


"Our unique capabilities, paired with our strategic locations across the globe, enable us to rapidly help those in need," said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and NATO Allied Air Command. "Along with our allies and partners, we stand united against a shared threat and stand ready to help when called."

Hours before the crew stepped to the C-17, Air Force Brig Gen Jimmy Canlas, 618th Air Operations Center commander, led a teleconference call in which he provided guidance in line with the recently released AMC COVID-19 Patient Movement Plan.

Airmen wearing personal protective gear work in and around an isolation chamber in the cargo bay of a large transport jet.
Aircraft Decontamination
Airmen aboard a C-17 Globemaster III begin disinfecting and decontaminating the aircraft after the first operational use of the Transport Isolation System at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 10, 2020. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize contamination risk to aircrew and medical attendants, while allowing in-flight medical care for patients afflicted by a disease — in this case, COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine
VIRIN: 200410-F-BT441-1989A


"Through the meticulous effort of AMC's planners over the past few weeks, in coordination with U.S. Transportation Command, we've produced a detailed plan that guides our crews on how to safely and effectively move ill patients to a location where they can receive greater care, all while providing protection for our aircrew, medical personnel and aircraft," Canlas said. "Within hours of completing and releasing this plan to the force, the crew of REACH 725 validated the hard work of these planners by safely transporting three COVID-19 patients nearly 4,000 miles from Afghanistan to Landstuhl."

Developed by AMC planners over the past few weeks, the Patient Movement Plan provides aircrew and support personnel a comprehensive and detailed process by which to transport patients aboard pressurized, military aircraft, including patients afflicted with highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19.

Airmen remove equipment from the brightly lit cargo bay of a large transport jet on a dark flight line.
Aircraft Unloading
Airmen unload medical equipment after transporting COVID-19 patients during the first-ever operational use of the Transport Isolation System at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 10, 2020. The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize contamination risk to aircrew and medical attendants, while allowing in-flight medical care for patients afflicted by a disease--in this case, COVID-19.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine
VIRIN: 200410-F-BT441-2219A


"I'm exceptionally proud of our airmen who executed this historic [aeromedical evacuation] mission," said Air Force Gen. Maryanne Miller, AMC commander. "REACH 725 is a great demonstration of AMC's transition to a warfighting component command, with increased flexibility and speed enabling our mobility airmen to quickly answer any call for help during this global campaign to defeat COVID-19. Delivering hope runs deep in the blood of mobility airmen, and I'm in awe of what they are doing for those in need."

(Courtesy of Air Mobility Command.)