Broken bones, shards of glass and internal bleeding. When a school bus with no seatbelts rolls over, dozens are left injured, some with life-threatening injuries. The local hospital on a remote Pacific island isn’t equipped to handle the influx of critical patients this unforeseen tragedy has created. Fortunately, help is already on the way.
That was the scenario the 815th Airlift Squadron, from the 403rd Wing, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., faced while leading airlift operations during exercise Cope North (CN20) at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 12-28, 2020.
When it comes to airlift, the 815th AS at the tip of the spear. Medical evacuation is one of many vital military and humanitarian support functions these men and women provide.
“I’ve been flying our aerial evacuation missions here to get people in and out of Tinian [U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)] during the exercise, but airlift services can be called upon at any time,” said Capt. Jason Rimmer, 815th AS pilot. “Our team was called to perform a real-world search and rescue mission, as well as a real-world aerial evacuation mission.”
The 815th AS, known as the “Flying Jennies,” is an Air Force Reserve Command tactical unit that transports supplies, equipment and personnel into theater. Three C-130J Super Hercules and 77 personnel comprised the airlift squadron’s contingent on the island this year.
The Flying Jennies integrated seamlessly alongside counterparts from the Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). One such mission demanded providing airlift for a mass casualty scenario where simulated patients were transported from Rota, CNMI, to Naval Hospital Guam.
One simulated patient was RAAF Leading Aircraftwoman Mikaela Stollznow, 1 Health Squadron medic, who received simulated surgery on a chest injury, coupled with internal bleeding. Now strapped to a litter and secured to the floor of a C-130J, Stollznow experienced a different perspective as a patient, as she’s normally providing in-flight care. She said it was a learning experience she won’t soon forget.
“When you pull G-force because your whole body is parallel to the floor, it’s definitely a bit scarier than sitting in the aircraft seats,” Stollznow said. “For me, that will impact future pre-flight briefs I give patients, letting them know it’ll be a bit frightening upon takeoff. I’ll communicate to patients more throughout the evacuation.
“It was a combined effort of what RAAF and USAF do in order to provide the best life-saving skills possible. The biggest takeaway is remaining calm in a hectic situation, such as a mass casualty, where panic really impacts your ability to treat a patient. It was an overall beneficial experience.”
The primary objective of CN20 was to conduct a HADR scenario in which U.S., JASDF and RAAF contingency response organizations work together to establish airbases and deliver personnel, supplies, equipment and cargo into a simulated disaster area.
“Airlift is essential in resupplying ground forces and supporting the long-term logistics chain that allows the mission to continue over the medium and long-term timelines for large-force employment,” said Maj. David Gentile, 403rd Wing chief of safety. “During this large-scale joint and coalition exercise, we transport people, cargo and aeromedical evacuation teams throughout the exercise area to support simulated HADR operations.”
In peacetime, the mission of the 815th AS is to recruit, organize and train to deploy, redeploy and employ air and ground forces to any area of the world and provide logistical support.
In times of war, the mission of 815th AS shifts to support the theater commander with the capability to resupply forces, provide airlift requirements and employment operations within the combat zone or forward areas, and when requested, provide aeromedical and refugee evacuation and augment strategic airlift forces.
During CN20 the Jennies launched approximately 40 sorties during the large-scale exercise to CNMI islands north of Guam.
Cope North is a multilateral U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored field training exercise conducted annually at Andersen. It focuses on combat air forces large-force employment and mobility air forces humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) training to enhance interoperability among U.S., Australian and Japanese forces.
Cope North has integrated air operations for more than 40 years and continues to serve as a keystone event to promote stability and security throughout the Indo-Pacific. The network of alliances and partnerships showcased in the annual exercise remain the backbone of global security.