WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
Four aeromedical evacuation technicians from the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron stepped up to provide critical support to the active duty U. S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine program, Sept. 14-16, 2020, helping ensure that mandatory training for new AET’s could continue as scheduled. The AE Airmen provided more than 30 hours of training.
The 445th Airlift Wing provides some routine equipment support to USAFSAM, which is a required follow-on training course for all new active duty, and many Reserve, flight nurses and flight medics before they can become fully qualified to fly AE missions.
“For the past couple of years, we have provided a C-17 aircraft for schoolhouse use about once a quarter,” said Col. Jay Smeltzer, commander, 445th Maintenance Group. “When they have a class getting ready to graduate, we take a plane over by their schoolhouse and ensure it is ready for their check flights.”
The aeromedical evacuation initial qualification course is approximately one month long.
“During the first portion of the schoolhouse, the emphasis is on the academic side of things. There are aspects of the job which can be taught through static training missions with model airframes,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Valenzuela, aeromedical evacuation examiner, 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
The schoolhouse, based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio since 2013, has technologically-advanced model fuselages which very closely mirror real-world equipment and are useful in mock training missions, Valenzuela explained.
“Ground training provides opportunities to practice some of those skills,” he said, “but to become fully qualified in this career field, you have to get off the ground.”
To complicate matters, the in-flight portion of the training requires a 1:1 ratio of students to cadre.
“Every student has to have an instructor with them while we’re up in the air,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Hutchison, NCO in charge of aircrew training, 445th AES.
Hutchison has augmented the AE schoolhouse in the past, serving as a temporary instructor for more than a year, along with several other 445th AES members, when there was a cadre shortfall.
“Sometimes we can offer new insight or different perspectives, simply because of our real-world experience,” Hutchison said.
He joined the 445th AES in 2002, has flown nearly 1,500 hours, and has dealt with three in-flight emergencies to date.
During the check rides, the students practice setting up the electrical and oxygen systems, loading patients, managing patient needs as they arise during flight, and they are also subjected to a simulated in-flight emergency.
“The intention behind this schoolhouse is to teach AET students, from the ground up, how to configure and then function within the aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Nickolaus Burns, 445th AES flight instructor.
While some AE technicians from the Guard and Reserve components attend the schoolhouse, others receive the training in-house with their squadrons.
“When you go out to fly real sorties, you may end up flying with other units from the Guard or active duty, so it’s important that everyone is on the same page,” said Tech. Sgt. Kristine Martin, 445th AES flight instructor. “I didn’t attend this schoolhouse for my initial training, but I still learned those skills through training with my squadron, and now I can pass that knowledge on to the newest batch of AET’s.”
The four 445th AES flight instructors spent two days augmenting the cadre at the schoolhouse, and there is a possibility the squadron may provide more cadre support in the future.
“These aren’t tasks that we have to do; it’s a cooperative effort. They need help, and we can provide it, so we do,” Smeltzer said.