JBSA-Randolph, Texas --
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas--
In just the past four weeks, three major hurricanes ravaged the Caribbean and the United States Gulf Coast. First came Harvey, which destroyed or damaged more than 100,000 homes, flooded neighborhoods, and displaced thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana.
Medical planners from all Air Force major commands prepared their personnel and equipment to respond and assist with hurricane relief if tasked. For Air Education and Training Command, the Medical Readiness Division worked with members from AETC’s Military Treatment Facilities to provide support for all three hurricanes.
As Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the AETC Crisis Action Team stood up and members eagerly awaited approval to preposition assets in case the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, needed support to move patients.
Officials from the 18th Air Force Operational Planning Team called AETC/SGX and asked for Hurricane Harvey medical support. This meant deploying four Critical Care Teams including 12 members from the 59th Medical Wing to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, to provide assistance staging patients. These critical care teams are made up of specially trained medics who work in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Deploying at the same time was another critical care team with three members from the 81st Medical Group at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, along with a Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility team with 55 members from the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; 71st Medical Group at Vance AFB, Oklahoma; and 81st Medical Group at Keesler AFB. These teams headed to George Bush Intercontinental Airport at Houston, Texas. The teams led by Col. Tami Rougeau, nurse and patient staging director, along with Maj. Christopher Parker, Corps Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility team chief were operational within a few hours of landing. The DASF team was staffed by specially trained medical personnel who provide care to patients who are being evacuated to hospitals or other care facilities.
Next, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and several Caribbean islands, knocking out power, leaving thousands homeless. A new requirement came down from 18th Air Force OPT for AETC/SGX to take action and deploy four Critical Care Teams, 12 members from the 59th Medical Wing to stage efforts from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Another prepare to deploy order then came from 18th Air Force OPT for another CCT from the 59th Medical Wing and a DASF team to stage in the Florida area. This team along with a team from the Air Force Medical Operations Agency was tasked to deploy, palletize and transport war reserve material, deployed from JBSA Kelly Field.
Following Irma was Hurricane Maria, ripping through Puerto Rico and Dominica. The Category 3 storm, which was approaching the Turks and Caicos Islands brought torrential downpours and powerful winds that uprooted trees, demolished homelands inundated roads on several Caribbean islands. Following Hurricane Maria, another tasking from 18th Air Force OPT to AETC/SGX required one CCT from the 59th Medical Wing to deploy with a 10-bed patient staging team from David Grant USAF Medical Center located at Travis Air Force Base, California, to St. Croix. This team supported patients who were routed to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, to the Federal Coordinating Center. Another critical care team from the 59th Medical Wing left from the staging location at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, to stage out of that location. Again, teams were prepped and ready to respond within 24 hours.
Lastly, coordination between Air Forces Norther/SG, Air Combat Command /SGX and AETC/SGX enabled a six person Ground Surgical Team to deploy to St. Thomas, with 1st Lt. James Cazort serving as deputy team chief. Cazort’s mission during the deployment was providing humanitarian aid for hurricane relief to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Schneider Regional Medical Center, while integrating with the 602nd Area Support Medical Company from Fort Bragg, N.C.
Because of Hurricane Maria, this team deployed from St. Thomas to the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) for three days. Once the storm passed and the all clear given, the GST went back to St. Thomas to provide patient support and see new patients at the Schneider Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.
Wherever hurricane relief support is needed, AETC medical members will respond and deploy to provide relief for all humankind across the globe.