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Hurricane exercise prepares Scott for upcoming season

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SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - The thought of weathering the full-force of a hurricane may seem a little far-fetched here in the Midwest. Although such a storm is improbable, the impact of hurricanes slamming the Atlantic or Gulf coasts are immediately felt at Scott Air Force Base, since several base organizations serve vital roles for the nation's hurricane response efforts.

To prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1, U.S. Transportation Command led a hurricane response exercise Wednesday through Friday here. Air Mobility Command, 375th Airlift Wing and representatives from U.S. Northern Command as well as other military and government organizations took part in the exercise.

As part of the exercise, airlift wing units demonstrated the sequence of events for moving patients out of harm's way. Aeromedical evacutation is one of the first actions the DOD takes before a hurricane's landfall.

"When a hurricane is about to begin, we can land 48 hours before, and are gone within 24 to eight hours before it hits," said Maj. David Hampl, 375th Medical Group and the on-site administrator for the demonstration.

"Once we land, it takes us about one hour to become operational We work with the Department of Health and Human Services to pre-evacuate potential hurricane victims from hospitals, so that we can relieve paramedics and ambulances needed elsewhere," he said.

One of the first things the response team does is quickly set up a mobile aeromedical staging facility, or MASF, for the reassessment and as a preflight waiting area. A MASF can be an existing structure or tents, and a MASF team usually comprises 13 people, including medical personnel and a Critical Care Air Transport Team.

As the sequence of events continues, a medical crew aboard the evacuation airecraft prepares for and receives the patients, ensuring the best of care in flight.

"We control the mission, we determine what equipment we need and set it all up. We're basically a flying hospital," said Capt. Wanda Parks, a 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.

The mission is complete when the aircraft, crew and medical personnel transport patients to an airfield away from danger for transport to a nearby hospital.

The 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, Peoria, provided a C-130 and aircrew for the hurricane response demonstration. The C-130, which can carry up to 72 litters, is the aircraft routinely used for aeromedical evacuation in the United States.

Exercise leader USTRANSCOM coordinates air, land and sea transportation for DOD, and one of its missions is aeromedial evacuation through its air component, Air Mobility Command. The United States depends on this unique DOD emergency response capability. Last year, AMC aircrews and aircraft evacuated about 530 patients in advance of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and in total, moved more than 5,100 patients within the continental United States in 2008.
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