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Afghans, U.S. Airmen Transport Patients by Air Ambulance

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Afghans and U.S. airmen came together recently to transfer patients from the Kandahar Regional Military Hospital to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Assisting in this unusual aeromedical evacuation mission was a member of Team Holloman currently assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Senior Master Sgt. William Cisna.

"I think it went really well," said Cisna, 451 EAES CASF superintendent. "We expected some hiccups along the way, but only very minor things happened. The airmen merged well with the Afghans because we worked with them during some orientations before. There was a great display of partnership."

This is not a new mission for the Afghan flight medics, but it is their first time partnering with airmen from the 451 EAES to transport patients via the U.S. Air Force HC-130P/N King.

"The purpose of this mission was to demonstrate an alternative for the movement of Afghan National Security Forces patients when all other capabilities may be overwhelmed, by partnering with the commander of KAF, International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. Air Force," said Col. Bruce Nelson, 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group flight surgeon adviser.

Members from the KRMH transported 12 patients to the Kandahar Air Wing ramp by ambulance in the morning. Once they arrived, the CASF airmen began evaluating the patients to ensure they were fit for flight. The Afghans and airmen then began transferring the patients, one by one, to the C-130H Hercules, operated by a West Virginia Air National Guard aircrew based out of the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

After the patients were loaded, they were then flown to Kabul to be transferred to either the National Military Hospital for Afghan National Army patients or the Afghan National Police Hospital for Afghan National Police patients. The four Kandahar Air Wing flight medics traveled with the patients to Kabul to provide care en route.

"They executed the mission and simultaneously used this as an ongoing training platform for the Afghans," said Lt. Col. Lisa McKinney, 451 EAES commander. "This actual mission goes hand-in-hand with the weekly orientations our squadron is conducting with the Afghan flight medics to develop their own aeromedical evacuation system."

ISAF has been working on coordinating an operation like this since June, but this specific mission took only a little more than a week of planning.

"We started planning this in June, so it's incredible to see the plan actually come together and be executed very smoothly," McKinney said. "Aeromedical evacuation can be a complicated process because there are so many moving pieces and parts, but all the agencies involved in this mission worked very hard to ensure the mission was successful."

Though this mission was a first of its kind, the Kandahar Air Wing has supported many other aeromedical evacuation missions.

The Afghans at the Kandahar Air Wing have been doing aeromedical evacuation missions since its inception in October 2009 as part of the Afghan National Army Air Corps, which became the Afghan Air Force in July 2010. Typical missions involve transfer of three to 16 patients about three to five times a week using Antonov aircraft, including the AN-32 and AN-26.

"The best part was seeing the fruits of our long months of training pay off in what looked like a seamless operation, with no difference except for the uniforms," Nelson said.

When not deployed downrange, Cisna is the superintendent of the 49th Medical Operations Squadron at Holloman.


Melissa B. White is a senior airman with the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office in Afghanistan. 

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