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Caring for people by caring for machines

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kasey Roy, 18th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, performs routine maintenance on an equipment sterilizer on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2015. Biomedical equipment technicians are responsible for the maintenance, repair and calibration of all medical equipment belonging to the 18th Medical Group and partner units stationed on Kadena, from defibrillators to X-ray machines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kasey Roy, 18th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, performs routine maintenance on an equipment sterilizer on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2015. Biomedical equipment technicians are responsible for the maintenance, repair and calibration of all medical equipment belonging to the 18th Medical Group and partner units stationed on Kadena, from defibrillators to X-ray machines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

An 18th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician tightens a valve on an equipment sterilizer on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2015. Kadena has a team of nine technicians responsible for the maintenance, repair and calibration of approximately 21,000 pieces of medical equipment belonging to the 18th Wing and partner units located on Kadena. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

An 18th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician tightens a valve on an equipment sterilizer on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2015. Kadena has a team of nine technicians responsible for the maintenance, repair and calibration of approximately 21,000 pieces of medical equipment belonging to the 18th Wing and partner units located on Kadena. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Chad McCoy, 18th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, inspects the inner workings of a defibrillator on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2015. Kadena’s nine biomedical equipment technicians are responsible for the maintenance, repair and calibration of approximately 21,000 pieces of medical equipment belonging to the 18th Wing and partner units located on Kadena. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Chad McCoy, 18th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, inspects the inner workings of a defibrillator on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2015. Kadena’s nine biomedical equipment technicians are responsible for the maintenance, repair and calibration of approximately 21,000 pieces of medical equipment belonging to the 18th Wing and partner units located on Kadena. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- If aircraft parts aren't properly taken care of, the results can be disastrous. Lives can be lost, people can be seriously hurt and the mission can be adversely affected. The same can be said for improperly maintained medical equipment.

On a routine visit to the 18th Medical Group, a patient's temperature, blood pressure and pulse may be measured and recorded to give doctors a sense of their overall health. On a more serious visit, they may have X-ray images taken to check bones for fractures or breaks. Regardless of the equipment being used, in order for doctors, nurses and medical technicians to get accurate readings and make appropriate diagnoses, it must be functioning properly.

That's where the 18th Medical Support Squadron's biomedical equipment technicians come in.

Acting as handymen for the Kadena clinic, the nine biomedical equipment technicians assigned to the 18th MDSS are responsible for inspecting, calibrating and repairing about 21,000 pieces of equipment on Kadena.

"Without properly calibrated medical equipment, patients don't get seen as they should," said Staff Sgt. Kasey Roy, 18th MDSS biomedical equipment technician. "If vital sign machines aren't calibrated correctly, a doctor could prescribe something wrong, which could hurt the patient in the long run."

These Airmen work with equipment from the 18th Medical Group and partner units as well as provide support to facilities belonging to other branches of service when necessary. They also maintain medical equipment stored in warehouses for future contingencies.

The equipment they work with ranges from life-saving defibrillators to dentistry tool sterilizers and everything in between. If it beeps, hums or whirs, the biomedical equipment technicians are in charge of ensuring it continues to perform up to standards.

"We also work on a wide range of equipment that's sent with people on temporary duties and deployments," Roy said. "Every piece of equipment we work on we treat with the same level of respect and accuracy, whether it's staying here or headed down range."

The team has a weekly meeting to determine the equipment that needs to be repaired or is due for routine calibration. After the work assignments have been divided among the technicians, they handle the equipment in order of importance. Life-saving equipment takes priority over less vital tools, much like medical triage in which patients with the most serious injuries are treated first.

Although the 18th MDSS biomedical equipment technicians spend most of their time working on some very expensive machines, they are ultimately caring for the Air Force's most valuable resource.

"Just like Gen. Welsh and others have said, people are our greatest asset," Roy said. "Without them, we don't have a force so we're here to help ensure that our people are ready."