Contingency medical facility pit stop for wounded

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Gerhardt
  • 446th Airlift Wing
It's different mix of functions - care providers, travel agents, hospital logisticians and mental health providers. Simply put, the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility is a one-stop place for wounded military waiting to leave the combat zone for care in a standard hospital.

Working in the CASF is a grueling, manual labor job where physicians, nurses, and medical technicians do everything from setting up their own tents and electricity, to treating patients and carrying them on litters to aircraft. That's what Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., are doing during Pacific Lifeline in Hawaii, along with medical specialists from other units.

Pacific Lifeline is a total force exercise designed to exercise the military's ability to rapidly deploy a trained, equipped team anywhere in the Pacific in response to a humanitarian assistance or disaster scenario. More than 900 Department of Defense personnel are participating in the exercise, including 145 Reservists from the 446th AW.

"The best way to describe a CASF is (that it is) a combination of a medical unit and transport system for aeromedical evacuations," said Lt. Col. Cynthia Fry-Spray, the alternate CASF commander for Pacific Lifeline at Kauai. Colonel Spry is deployed from the 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, McChord AFB.

In a wartime scenario, the CASF would treat military personnel with injuries ranging from broken arms to severe trauma. However, in a humanitarian or disaster response, the CASF could treat everything from wounded children to the elderly with heart problems.

"The biggest difference (in a humanitarian assistance situation) is there won't be such defensive wounds as from combat," said Colonel Fry-Spray. "We might deal more with pediatrics, but we could also deal with a host of (regular) health issues with trauma added on top."

The 47-person team at the CASF includes flight surgeons and nurses, as well as pharmacy, nutrition, and mental health specialists. While patients are at the CASF, they will be assessed and reassessed until their flight departs.

"We want to continue treatment already given or initiate new care if it's needed," said Maj. Joe Tomsic, who wears a dual hat as the assistant chief nurse at the CASF and mental health provider. "We want to ensure they are ready to fly to a major medical facility." Major Tomsic is deployed from the 605th Medical Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

Depending on the size of the tent, the CASF can treat 50 to 250 patients at a time. For Pacific Lifeline, the tent will handle about 25 patients.