BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Jan. 2, 2018 —
When injured airmen need to be transported, medical care can’t stop midflight. The 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron’s airmen make sure that doesn’t happen.
Air Force Capt. Asha Wyatt, 455th EAES aeromedical evacuation operations officer and flight nurse, helps to provide patients with lifesaving emergency and prehospital care.
“My position is to manage the crews as well as see how to coordinate with leadership as far as the tasking; providing medical support for the patients here in the area of responsibility,” Wyatt said, adding that she spends a lot of time monitoring their “nine line,” which is a report to request medical evacuation, and coordinating patient movements.
“We work with Resolute Support Headquarters and their Combined Joint Special Operations Center, as well as the patient evacuation coordination cell, to coordinate patient evacuations,” Wyatt said. “We also have to work with the Aeromedical Evacuation Control Team at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, and then coordinate with Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where all our patient information is inputted and provided back here to our crews.”
Vital Medical Care
Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Hendell, the outgoing 455th EAES commander, said Wyatt and other nurses enable the squadron to support and provide vital medical care for all troops fighting in Afghanistan.
“We are critical to ensuring that troops in Afghanistan have a safety net during operations,” Hendell said. “We guarantee that the best possible medical treatment is rapidly available and continues in transport. This is how America fights. We take care of our own.”
Deployed here from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Wyatt has been in the Air Force for six years.
“I was excited to be going on this deployment,” she said. “This is my first deployment and I have heard how wonderful the [aeromedical evacuation] deployments have been in the past, so I was really looking forward to this.”
The 455th EAES mission is to provide ready, on-call, aeromedical evacuation throughout Afghanistan. “The 455th EAES' ability to provide aeromedical evacuation anywhere, anytime, and to any degree also enables combat operations by guaranteeing medical coverage to commanders on the ground,” Hendell said. “Because we can do this, we don't just do works of mercy, but truly enable the fight.”
Wyatt said she always had aspirations of being a nurse, but really wanted to make a difference with the services she provides.
“I wanted to join the Air Force so that I could do nursing for veterans and active duty service members,” she said. “I wanted to see what opportunities the Air Force could offer me.” She added that she’s working toward a master’s degree in nursing in the hope of one day being able to work at a college.
Working Behind the Scenes
Her favorite part about this deployment has been working with the different forces and the various entities behind the scenes, such as seeing all the coordination that has to happen to evacuate one patient, Wyatt said.
“My job is important here to [providing] aeromedical evacuation support to all the patients in theater,” she added. “Not just U.S. forces, but Afghan patients, along with coalition and NATO forces. We provide them medical support so that they have the confidence to go out in battle and know that they will be taken care of. If we can reach them in the ‘golden hour,’ … we have a 100 percent survivability rate, while having the ability to get them back to the states in 24 hours.”
The golden hour refers to the first hour after injury. The 455th EAES is the only medevac unit in Afghanistan and is tasked to be ready 24/7 to provide inflight medical care.
“If my unit wasn’t here, it would eliminate the priority and urgency of medical care that is provided,” Wyatt said. “We have two [critical care air transport] teams here, and we can not only just take priority patients, but also critically wounded patients, which allows them to get out faster. If we remove that entity, the 100 percent survivability rate would be severely dampened.”