HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii — A joint active duty and reserve C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., assigned to Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, along with a two-person medical team, conducted an emergency medical evacuation Sept. 10 (New Zealand Time) for a 56-year-old-male assigned to the National Science Foundation.
The patient needed a cardiovascular evaluation and was deemed as too high a risk to go unescorted from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to a New Zealand hospital, according to Capt. Greg Richert, the on-board flight surgeon.
“We took an oxygen setup, emergency airway kits, a defibrillator and emergency intervention kit, just to be on the safe side,” said Captain Richert. “I have the best job in the world–deploying at a moment’s notice, and helping people. I enjoy doing things like this.”
The patient was successfully moved without incident aboard the McChord C-17 and is currently receiving medical care in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The aircrew and medical personnel are part of the JTF SFA, headquartered here and led by 13th Air Force. The joint task force, made up of active duty, Guard and Reserve U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard personnel, is currently conducting Operation Deep Freeze in support of the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program.
In addition to moving personnel in need of medical attention, JTF SFA coordinates strategic intertheater airlift, tactical LC-130 deep field support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements as part of ODF.
Air Force medical teams have the ability to move patients on five different aircraft. The most common aircraft used for medical evacuation missions are the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, and KC-135 Stratotanker. Medical crews are fully self-contained, supplying their own oxygen and medical equipment. They only need to plug in to the aircraft’s electrical system to provide en route care to their patients.
Lt. Gen. Chip Utterback, JTF SFA and 13th Air Force commander, said the mission was indicative of the professionalism of the joint U.S. team operating in the Pacific region and of the pride JTF SFA personnel take in their mission.
“This movement is really just one small part of the JTF SFA mission, but it demonstrates how well our people are trained and how quickly we can respond when needed,” General Utterback said. “Our joint team is proud to support the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program as they continue their research in Antarctica, and to help their people when they are most in need.”