There when you need them: Kadena Ambulance Service answers the call
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The pounding of their hearts feels like the front row of a rock concert. Adrenaline is sky high, but they seem cool, calm and collected on the outside during a life or death situation.
This is a daily feeling for a member of the Kadena Ambulance Service as they save the life of a stranger. But they remember their training, and know their teammates have their backs.
Saving a life can be chaotic. But for Senior Airman Kristoffer Drone, 18th medical Operations Squadron emergency medical technician, he stops to remember the motto his trainers instilled into him, look at the scene, look at the patient and then look into the patient. They look around to find the cause and any potential hazards, render the necessary medical care, then they comfort the patient.
"We establish that rapport to really get to know them personally," said Drone. "That way they are more likely to give us vital information."
Being emergency medical technicians requires more than just knowing and administering medical care, it also requires remaining calm and collected in a chaotic environment. This skilled team not only has to be able to care for the injured party but also be part of the support system for family members and bystanders at the scene.
Helping people is what they do best. Kadena ambulance service is a part of the 18th Medical Group and is responsible for a 102 sq. kilometer area of responsibility, one of the largest of any ambulance services throughout the Air Force.
As one of the busiest ambulance services flight in Pacific Air Forces, they operate on a 24-hour rotation and respond to approximately 50-60 calls a month adding up to 600-720 calls a year. Partnered with the other branches of service, they provide island wide emergency medical care.
An ambulance service EMT's day is very stressful, this is why training frequently to respond to any trauma, medical or in flight emergency is vital.
One of the most stressful times is between calls. Your senses are heightened; your nerves are on edge waiting for dispatch to announce the next emergency and the unpredictability of each call adds to the stress, explained Drone.
"You never know what call you're going to get," he explained. "Sometimes dispatch will tell us somebody has a cut on their finger, and when we get there they cut their hand off."
That's where the expert training and teamwork come into play. The ambulance service is located with the fire department at Fire Station 2. The firefighters will also respond to give an extra hand and help out wherever needed.
A typical emergency response is stressful and exhilarating, said drone. They receive the dispatch tone and race out to the emergency. On scene, they render the proper life-saving care.
"The biggest thing is never get complacent because you never know what is going to happen," he explained. "If you get too relaxed then that's when something worse can happen from not being prepared."
For all their hard work and dedication, the ambulance crew's true reward is moral satisfaction. From seeing somebody in distress, to then watching them recover is one of the main things that drives them to show up to work every day and do their best.
"It feels good being a part of that therapeutic process," said Tech. Sgt. Damian Sharpe, 18th MDOS ambulance service NCO in charge. "When I pull up to a scene and see somebody that's in distress, I can communicate and help them. Then to see them recover from that trauma, I think that's awesome, that's one of the most rewarding parts of being part of ambulance services."
While the EMTs enjoy helping people and saving lives, they can't be everywhere at once.
"Taking us out of service for a minor thing such as a scrape or a sprained ankle, could possibly prevent us from responding to someone with a more serious emergency," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Canfield, 18th MDOS EMT.
However, the ambulance service will take every emergency call seriously and provide the best care possible. When arriving to those calls, they then have to make a decision, race to the nearest hospital to hand over a patient to doctors, or deem them safe enough to educate and release them. A decision they are well trained, and perform daily.
Once complete, they head back to the station and anxiously wait for the next call.
"The best thing about working in the ambulance service, is we see people when they're at their worst, when they need us the most, and that's when we jump into action and really make a difference," said Canfield.