18 MDG hosts ERPSS exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
It's a dreary, humid Monday afternoon on Okinawa when more than 45 active duty and U.S. Air Force Reserve Airmen finish setting up their temporary facility.

They've been working non-stop for more than 14 hours, setting up a safe place capable of treating injured personnel as deafening rain pounds the cement on the flighline and turns the patch of grass surrounding their three-room tent into a muddy swamp.

This was day one of an exercise hosted by the 18th Medical Group with Airmen from Misawa Air Base, Japan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Camp Bullis, Texas, which tested their ability to successfully deploy an operational En-Route Patient Staging System.

En-Route Patient Staging Systems are designed to provide rapid response, en-route patient care for initial states of major war or contingency operations while supporting patients, ensuring they are prepared for evacuation and assisting with transporting them to and from evacuation aircraft.

"Our mission here for the 18th Wing is in the event that anything happens we're responsible to evacuate patients in and out of the theater," said Capt. Kimberly Edwards, 18th Medical Support Squadron medical readiness flight commander. "The way we do that is we stand up an ERPSS. Our capability here is up to a 200 bed, very large ERPSS."

Although Kadena has the space and equipment necessary to set up a 200 bed ERPPS, the participants in this exercise were only responsible for setting up a 50-bed facility. In a contingency, Airmen from around the world would help staff an ERPSS so large, which is why Airmen from other bases were invited to support the exercise.

"That's our mission as a military organization," said Capt. Mike Bernabe, 35th Medical Support Squadron medical readiness flight commander. "When we are deployed, it's not only going to be one person supporting that mission. We bring teamwork and joint collaboration to make sure it's not just one base."

The exercise saw 23 Airmen from Kadena's Medical Group and 17 from Kadena's Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, along with 11 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Aeromedical Staging Squadron, eight from Misawa's Medical Group, and two from Camp Bullis' Training Group working together to establish and operate the 50-bed ERPSS on Kadena's flightline for four days.

During this time, simulated evacuations were held with patients, including Airmen donning moulage makeup applied to look like burns and cuts and mannequins representing injured men, women and children.

Edwards said she hopes this exercise helps Team Kadena and Pacific Air Forces as a whole discover their capabilities in this particular area of readiness.

"It was definitely an eye opener," Edwards said. "That's what the Air Force is today. It's all about active duty, Reserve and other units integrating and working together to make the mission happen."

Whether in times of actual crisis or by practicing for the worst-case scenario, the U.S. Air Force's ability to quickly and seamlessly integrate Airmen from one unit into another is an invaluable component of its constant readiness and helps ensure it remains the world's greatest and most versatile Air Force.

"It's that joint effort," Bernabe said. "Different Air Force Specialty Codes, different capabilities from different bases, once you put them all together it's a smooth, clean fighting machine that has proven time and time again it can't be beat."