Pumping gas, saving lives

by Senior Airman John Linzmeier
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

An aircrew from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron here refueled U.S. Navy aircraft assigned to the USS Carl Vinson in the Western Pacific during a training mission and diverted to Yokota Air Base, Japan, to provide aeromedical evacuation support for two patients May 3.

Daily refueling operations with the aircraft carrier’s F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E Super Hornets began earlier the same week. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet.

Upon completion of a refueling sortie, a KC-135 Stratotanker, loaded with a medical team and supplies from the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, headed toward Yokota AB to receive two patients and transport them to higher medical care.

“This mission saved us a lot of time and resources,” said Capt. Kendall Brown, 909th ARS pilot. “We were able to maintain the flight currencies for both Navy and Air Force aircrews, make sure the patients got the proper care and treatment they needed and save our maintenance crews from having to launch another jet.”

The 18th AES supports the largest area of operation of medical contingencies in the Pacific, reaching from the Horn of Africa to Alaska. Maintaining a forward presence is critical due to a high susceptibility of natural disasters within the region such as, earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and more.

“We are able to provide care for those patients in route to a higher echelon of care,” said Capt. Lauren Kalani, 18th AES medical crew director flight nurse. Each patient is unique and equally important. It’s rewarding knowing that the mission was a success and that each AE crewmember learned something new with each patient and each mission.”

To make sure AE support is available at all times, teams of Airmen from both squadrons are on standby 24/7, ready to provide humanitarian relief for a large scale crisis or even sending a newborn to the U.S. for specialized medical treatment.

“It is the patient that drives the mission and it is our duty to transfer those patients to a higher level of care so they can be treated properly,” said Kalani. “It takes a lot of training and preparation to do what we do, but it is a privilege to be able to train and carry out these missions successfully.”

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