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News > Team McChord responds to Antarctica medevac
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 In a matter of 60 hours after leaving McChord Field, the team successfully transported a patient requiring urgent medical attention from the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Team McChord Antarctic medical evacuation
Responding to a short-notice request from the National Science Foundation, a C-17 Globemaster III crew from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., alongside aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport team Airmen, safely evacuated an ailing contractor from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, April 22. After the C-17 safely landed at McMurdo Station, there was a 35-minute ground time in which the patient was transferred to the aircraft. The patient received in-air medical care from the AE and CCAT crews aboard the C-17. (Photo provided by Joint Task Force - Support Forces Antarctica)
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 From take off to drop off: Antarctic medical evacuation in only 60 hours
Team McChord responds to Antarctica medevac

Posted 5/3/2013   Updated 5/6/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Jacob Jimenez
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2013 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Airmen from the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings completed a winter emergency medical evacuation mission in Antarctica April 22.

In a matter of 60 hours after leaving McChord Field, the team successfully transported a patient requiring urgent medical attention from the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Lt. Col. Brent Keenan, 62nd Operations Group deputy commander and 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander, received a request from NSF on April 16 and immediately assembled a team to take on the mission.

"A C-17 team composed of active duty and Reserve members from multiple units and locations, dropped everything they were doing, integrated a solid team, and rapidly deployed to the most isolated and remote location on the planet in the world's most extreme operating conditions," said Keenan.

The 62nd and 446th AWs are the only U.S. Air Force C-17 wings uniquely equipped to conduct missions to Antarctica. Annually, they support Operation Deep Freeze, which provides logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program. It is one of the most difficult U.S. military peacetime missions due to the rapid weather changes, relentless wind speeds and inhospitable conditions. ODF is usually only conducted each year from August to March.

Since the ODF season is over, the runways at McMurdo had been closed, therefore the team had to wait until one was re-opened.

The ground staff employed by Lockheed-Martin/ASC, NSF Colorado-based support contractor, rapidly prepared to receive the aircraft.

"What we thought was going to take them nine days, they got done in two and a half," said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, 97th Airlift Squadron resource manager. "The people down at McMurdo Station were able to get the runway fixed far beyond what we needed, which was good in the end. As soon as we found out that things were getting better, we put a sense of urgency in it."

McChord Airmen flew from JBLM to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where they picked up aeromedical evacuation members and critical care air transport teams. After refueling, they immediately left for Christchurch.

"We landed at Christchurch and everything there was ready to go," said Masura. "That gave us enough time to get everybody trained, get a plan together and get ready to fly the following day."

The rescue team landed in McMurdo on the morning of April 22. It only took 35 minutes after the C-17 landed to pick up the patient and takeoff.

"This team did an outstanding job overcoming the obstacles of distance, extreme weather and operational limitations," said Keenan. "This mission was the perfect example of air mobility and global reach at its finest. I am very proud to be part of the Operation Deep Freeze program. Being able to rapidly respond to NSF's urgent call is a great feeling."

NSF has a presidential mandate to manage the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), through which it coordinates all U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent and aboard vessels in the Southern Ocean and provides the logistical support to make possible the research.

ODF includes the coordination of strategic inter-theater airlift, tactical intra-theater airlift and airdrop, aeromedical evacuation support, search and rescue response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling, and transportation requirements supporting the NSF.

(Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle, 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)

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