Mutualism between 944th ASTS, 445th ASTS

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Bruch
  • 944th Fighter Wing

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron (ASTS) from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona headed to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, for their annual tour to conduct joint medical training with the 445th ASTS, early August 2021.

“We decided to build a training plan where the ASTS from Luke [AFB] could come out to Wright-Patterson,” said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Luff, 445th ASTS chief enlisted manager. “We have so many unique training opportunities here that aren’t available for them at Luke [AFB].”

Wright-Patterson AFB has the advantage of being close to large medical training facilities such as the Dayton VA, Wright-Patterson Medical Center, and the Wright State University National Center for Medical Readiness, also known as “Calamityville”.

In addition to large medical training facilities on base and around the Dayton, Ohio area, Wright-Patterson AFB is also home to the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES) and the 89th Airlift Squadron (AS), both units essential for an ASTS to receive comprehensive training and experience with the En-Route Patient Staging System (ERPSS) mission.

“It is a huge benefit to our members to work with an ASTS who regularly trains in the ERPSS mission,” said Lt Col Kathleen Kent, 944th ASTS chief nurse.

To increase the level of realism, the unit trainers aligned their annual tour to coincide with the 455th AES, the 89th AS who provided C-17 Globemaster III support, and the U.S. Army Reserve 244th Aviation Combat Brigade who provided HH-60M Black Hawk MEDEVAC support.

“It’s a multi-level, bang-for-your-buck level of training,” said Col. Bobbie Stemen, 445th ASTS commander.

All of these capabilities and resources available at Wright-Patterson AFB gave the participants access to practice receiving, stabilizing, and transporting simulated patients between the Black Hawks and a C-17 Globemaster III.

“For many of the 944th personnel, this was the first opportunity to actually load simulated patients onto a cargo plane, to experience the noise of the flight line, and the physical challenges that accompany this mission,” Kent said.

Kent went on to explain that this training was beneficial to her Airmen because they all play a part in the mission but don’t always have the ability to train in alternate environments other than Luke AFB.

“We have medical technicians, nurses, doctors, administrative personnel, dietary technicians, pharmacy technicians and biomed who all contribute to this part of the mission,” Kent said. “We deploy in a variety of settings, from very austere to locations with established medical treatment facilities across the globe.”

After the first week of training, over 100 service members were put to the test in a culminating training event held at the National Center for Medical Readiness, “Calamityville”.

“Calamityville” is a training, testing, and research venue where military and civilian emergency first responders hone their skills while building relationships. The training was designed to increase skills in caring for combat wounded in challenging remote locations where traditional medical evacuation may not be possible.

As simulated grenades and small arms fire rang out, the ASTS Airmen were placed in a stressed environment and tested on their response to a mass casualty situation.

“This is the most dynamic training I’ve ever attended and I’ve been in EMS for 16 years,” said Airman 1st Class Nathan Blankenship, 944th ASTS aerospace medical technician. “The actors of the casualty, the real-world equipment, the austere environment is all making it actually how it would be in the real world.”

The 944th ASTS was not the only unit to benefit from the joint effort in this year’s training. With a cadre of certified instructors, the 944th ASTS was able to train and certify 19 members of the 445th ASTS in Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) while training at Calamityville.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship because were able to do a lot of training here that the 944th normally doesn’t get,” added Chief Luff. “They’ve reciprocated by being able to do TCCC training for us. I don’t have TCCC instructors, so Master Sgt. [Justin] Sanderson and his cadre of instructors were able to train my people.”

As a successful first-time experiment, the future of cross-organizational training looks promising for these squadrons and those involved in Air Force Reserve aeromedical readiness.

“The joint training between our two squadrons in the future is going to constantly evolve,” Stemen said.

Over the course of the annual tour the service members participated in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, mass casualty scenarios, TCCC, and an active shooter exercise with local police and SWAT. They also completed 67 computer-based trainings, 129 clinical training hours at the Veteran Affairs and Wright Patterson Medical Center, and closed out 20 individual medical readiness requirements.