Airmen from Delaware Air National Guard evacuate survivors of Afghan helicopter crash via airlift to Germany Monday

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Delaware Air National Guard
Headquarters, 166th Airlift Wing
2600 Spruance Drive
New Castle, DE 19720-1615 

Airmen from Delaware Air National Guard evacuate survivors of Afghan helicopter crash via airlift to Germany Monday

Airmen who are residents of Delaware (upstate and downstate), Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia participate in effort

Media advisory: Photos of several of the Airman are available upon request.

Contact: Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Matwey
Public Affairs Specialist, 166th Airlift Wing
Cell 302-593-2126, or office 302-323-3369
Release No. 2007-02-004
February 21, 2007


RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Only hours after a helicopter crashed in Afghanistan Sunday, Airmen from an aeromedical evacuation control team in Southwest Asia got 11 of fourteen injured survivors onboard a C-17 Globemaster III bound for Germany.

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

Two other survivors were airlifted to Germany later and one did not require evacuation.

Five medical evacuation specialists of the Delaware Air National Guard formed one of two critical care air evacuation teams (CCATs) that directly participated in the medical evacuation aboard the aircraft.

Another four specialists from the Delaware Air Guard unit working at a ground station in Southwest Asia helped coordinate the launch of the medical evacuation mission.

Airmen from the Delaware Air National Guard's 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron "Were instrumental in accomplishing this mission," said 2nd Lt. Maureen Mulrooney, 142nd AES Health Systems Specialist and resident of Collingswood, N.J. who maintains regular contact with fellow members of her deployed unit from the squadron's home station in New Castle, Del.

Once coalition rescuers from Australia, Canada, England and Holland, as well as from the United States, reached the crash site, they reported that 14 of the 22 on board survived. They rendered life-saving care on site and put out a call to the Joint Patient Movement Requirement Center.

This is where the AECT (aeromedical evacuation control team) took over. Colonel Cook's team located airlift, air evacuation (AE) crews and critical care air evacuation teams (CCATs)

"In this case, two CCAT teams were needed" said Colonel Cook. "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 are now on a mission from Kandahar, Afghanistan to Ramstein," said the colonel on Monday, Feb. 19.

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

"It was a pretty hectic flight" said Capt. Karen Mackenzie, a trauma surgeon onboard with the CCAT. "We had seven critical patients... head injuries, chest wounds, spinal fractures."

Her team worked diligently to keep the patients stable during the long flight but it was "absolutely imperative that we get these patients to a medical facility."

Shortly before 2 a.m. they touched down at Ramstein where twenty members from the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility loaded them onto two busses for the short trip to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

In about an hour the busses rolled out leaving behind a cold and tired team from the CASF, but their shift leader, 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.

The troops were injured when their Army MH-47 special operations helicopter reportedly "had a sudden, unexplained loss of power and control and crashed" in Southeast Afghanistan. According to a U.S. Central Command public affairs spokesman, the helicopter crashed early Sunday morning carrying twenty-two Soldiers, Airmen and Marines.

The five member aeromedical evacuation (AE) crew from the Delaware Air Guard who traveled with and took care of the patients aboard the C-17 flight from Afghanistan to Germany consisted of flight nurse Capt. Bernard Meadows, a resident of Gap, Pa., flight nurse 1st Lt. Joey Owens, a resident of Port Deposit, Md., medical technician Tech. Sgt. Doug Stephens, a resident of Brogue, Pa., medical technician Staff Sgt. Julia Conley, a resident of Milford, Del., and air-ground medic Senior Airman Adam Davidson, a resident of Ellicott City, Md.

The crew management cell (CMC) on the ground was responsible for getting the AE crew out the door. The people from the Delaware Air Guard on schedule that day in the CMC were flight nurse Lt. Col. Carolyn Wood, a resident of Chesapeake City, Va., and support services technician Master Sgt. Bobbie Bensley, a resident of Felton, Del.

One Delaware Air Guard officer was not at work that day, but the demands of the mission inspired him to get involved. "2nd Lt. Charles Williston (a flight nurse and a resident of Oxford, Pa.) deserves kudos for coming out on his day off and assisting in the launch," said Lt. Col. Charles Gebhart, Commander of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron based in Al Udeid, Qatar, who is also the Senior Health Administrator of the Delaware Air National Guard's 142nd AES and a resident of Newark, Del.

Discussing working in the C-17 aircraft with the 11 patients, flight nurse Capt. Ben Meadows said on Feb. 21, "It was like being in an emergency room, just as hectic, doing lots of things to care for the patients who had suffered a variety of significant trauma."

Medical technician Tech. Sgt. Doug Stevens said on Feb. 21, "This is what we are all about. We care for these people. Some of the injured were wearing wedding rings. They all come from families. The medical condition of a couple of the patients even improved in the air, and we were happy to see that."

Major Terry Thomas, a Delaware Air Guard flight nurse and resident of Souderton, Pa. was not on duty that night but has five years of overseas combat experience since Oct. 2001. On Feb. 21 she said, "So far, this was the biggest single event medical evacuation mission we have had to do in one day on this rotation (winter 2006-2007). We had one previous event that was also significant, but nothing quite this big."

Lt. Col. Charles Gebhart, deployed from Delaware as the Commander of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, was on duty during the mission launch.

"You did a great job making this mission happen. It's a pleasure to serve with you," wrote Lt. Col. Lenora Cook to several aeromedical evacuation leaders in the combat zone, including Lt. Col. Chuck Gebhart from the Delaware Air Guard unit, who wrote back, "Thank you ma'am. The feeling is mutual."

The article about the crash and evacuation was the lead story Feb. 20 on the official website of the United States Air Force: From the article page there is a video and audio link. In the video, Delaware Air National Guard member Tech. Sgt. Doug Stephens is interviewed next to the C-17 aircraft used for the mission.

Thirty-five Airmen of the Delaware Air National Guard's 142nd AES are deployed this winter for 120 days to Southwest Asia to assist in the medical evacuation of wounded U.S. and coalition troops from combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the largest deployment of people from this unit to a combat zone since Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

This release is in the public domain, and any part may be used as written. Parts of this release are from an Air Force News article dated Feb. 19, 2007.

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