Monday, May 10, 2010

A New Level of Respect for The Air Force's Medivac and Airlift Capabilities - My Flight Aboard a C-17

Thursday was a remarkable day for me and several dozen others who were scheduled to participate in the "Hire America's Heroes" Symposium that I wrote about in an earlier Blog posting. We started the day at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as guests of the Air Force Reserve 446th Airlift Wing. We were invited to ride along on a training flight aboard the remarkable Boeing-built C-17. Multiple levels of training would be taking place on this two hour flight, including Aeromedical Evacuation, Combat Offload and Humvee Upload.

We were briefed on the mission by Col. Lisa Tank, and taken by bus to the flight line where we boarded the impressive bird. After all of the guests had been seated and secured within the cargo bay, the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron simulated the loading of wounded soldiers from a combat zone, securing them within the aircraft, and treating them during the flight to a distant medical facility. Even though I knew that this was a drill, when the stretcher passed in front of me with an airman playing the role of a wounded combatant, it felt very real and it was a deeply moving moment.

Once we were airborne and had leveled off, we were allowed to leave our seats and move about the huge cargo bay, observing the medical squadron at work. One of the Air Force Reserve nurses, a veteran of many years of combat medicine, was a gentleman whose name tag read "Rhino"! Seriously! How could I make this up? Two rhinos on the same flight!

The pilot then took us on a scenic tour that would be hard to surpass. We circled the summits of Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier at what felt like only a few hundred feet above the snow-covered peaks. The crew did several circumnavigations of these two majestic mountains - long enough to give everyone aboard the plane a chance to take a good look.

During our early morning briefing, one of the briefers had asked for a couple of volunteers - without telling us what we were volunteering for. My hand shot up and I was chosen. I soon learned that I had volunteered to join the pilots on the flight deck for the landing back to Runway 34 at McChord AFB. What a thrill. Sitting behind the pilot, I was even able to look through his heads-up digital display of the instrument readings. We made what the pilot described as an "assault landing," coming in fast and steep as they would if they were flying into a potentially hostile environment.

Upon landing, we were shown how, in a "hot" war zone, they can quickly unload cargo onto the tarmac, and take on Humvees and other vehicles

The Air Force and Air Force Reserve do a remarkable job in supporting our troops through medivac and airlift capabilities around the globe. They deserve our respect and our thanks.



John Wulsin said...

wow! I wish I could have been on that plane too. Sounds like a great adventure.

Jared said...

"Sir, my altitude is 7,258 feet above sea level... far, far above that of West Point or Annapolis."