403rd ASTS ensures deployment readiness

  • Published
  • By Col. John Buterbaugh
  • 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron

The 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron is first and foremost a service organization. During war, we serve patients and at Keesler Air Force Base we serve the 403rd Wing. We are here for you, and I hold our members to that ethic.


Our squadron’s wartime function is to be part of a patient transport chain, which takes injured and sick military members from the battlefield to our large military hospitals in the United States. Because modern medical care relies on stabilization of patients at small forward medical facilities and sequentially moving the patient to higher levels of care, one of the links in the chain is a unit like ours. We deploy en-route patient staging facilities, which function like temporary holding hospitals at airfields where patients can be taken care of while waiting for airlift transport to Europe or the United States.


An example of this would be if a patient sustained a fracture in the field, had initial surgery to externally fixate the fracture using pins and rods, and was then transferred to a larger care facility. That patient would be placed in our tent hospital in the field where he would be monitored, given antibiotics and pain medication, fed and cared for until the next evacuation aircraft arrived. This usually lasts for less than 24 hours.


I am very proud of our members of whom more than 90 percent are fully trained and mission ready. The 403rd ASTS is ready to deploy whenever necessary to care for our fighters.


We have another very important function right here at Keesler. Every unit training assembly we provide vital medical services to the wing. Through our physical exams section we do annual medical evaluations for every member of the wing. Fortunately, not every member needs to physically see one of our doctors each year. However, we review medical records, web health assessment, screen for needed immunizations, review dental forms, and check lab results every year.


I would also like to point out that our team is usually able to complete monthly clinic appointments in only a half day. This is in contrast to many other wings that require a whole day to do the same thing. Our immunization nurses and technicians deliver thousands of immunization doses to our members each year, too. And who runs the drug demand reduction program? It is our DDR nurses and technicians who collect and test urine samples in a reliable and secure way in order to ensure that the wing remains drug free.


Another big program is managing profiles. This process categorizes and tracks members who have medical issues that would make it unsafe for them to fly, deploy or complete physical training. It is a complex and difficult job with many moving parts and it is through the dedication of a special group of medical providers and technicians that we are able to do such a great job with this.


This year we are concentrating on improving processes in order to be able to serve you better. About seven months ago we had a process improvement event designed to speed up the time that it takes to do initial flying class-three physical exams and it looks like it has made a big impact. Our next effort is to change some processes in the dental section designed to improve communication and the flow of dental forms.


I always value feedback from you, positive or negative, so don’t hesitate to communicate your thoughts with us. I am constantly amazed at what our various members do throughout the wing and really appreciate everything you do to get the mission accomplished and serve our country.