Saving lives in the Pacific

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Gerhardt
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
More than 140 Reservists with the 446th Airlift Wing are participating in the Pacific Lifeline exercise in Hawaii Jan. 26 to Feb. 9.

Of the squadrons from the wing participating, the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron leads the pack with 84 people. The 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 446th Services Flight, 446th Mission Support Squadron, and the 446th Airlift Control Flight also have several people participating. 

Pacific Lifeline is a total force exercise designed to exercise the military's ability to rapidly arrive and leave a trained, equipped team anywhere in the Pacific in response to a humanitarian assistance or disaster scenario. Approximately 900 Department of Defense personnel will participate in the 13th Air Force-led exercise. 

The 446th ALCF will be the first unit in place at Barking Sands Naval Air Station in Hawaii and the last ones to leave to ensure airlift runs smoothly.

"Our job will be to receive the cargo and personnel who will be at the exercise," said Master Sgt. Tom Martin, the senior Air Reserve Technician in the 446th ALCF.  "Our unit will remain for the exercise to supply Air Mobility Command's Command and Control for all exercise airlift in and out of Barking Sands. When the exercise is complete, we'll ensure everyone else is shipped out on schedule before we leave on the last plane coming home to McChord."

The ALCF is critical to keep the airlift, cargo and personnel running smoothly, allowing everyone to focus on their portions of the exercise.

"It is very important to continue to do exercises like this in different theatres of operation," said Col. Jan Moore-Harbert, 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander. "This exercise gives them a two-fold opportunity; to work in the Pacific theatre again since it is an area we would be required to support if a war or contingency occurs, and it allows them to be a part the development and approval of a humanitarian response concept for a major disaster."

One of the capabilities being exercised is the new Humanitarian Relief Operations Operational Capability Package, or HUMRO OCP, which was developed earlier this year. 

In the past, medical facilities have generally been set up at established locations, where the hospital could rely on existing support functions -- food, shelter and protection -- from the base. The new HUMRO OCP is a stand-alone, self-sufficient package designed for quick deployment anywhere in the area of operations, whether an air base is located close by or not.

The stand-alone hospital includes a complete diagnostic and surgical capability in a 25-bed facility with all required base operating support built in. The estimated number of people to run the facility is 90 medical staff and 150 support Airmen, to include security forces, civil engineers, base services and others.

The exercise scenario calls for the OCP to be deployed to a typhoon-devastated area somewhere in the Pacific area of operations. Pacific Lifeline "will integrate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief with the crisis response force based on HUMRO OCP," said Lt. Col. Bob Edwards, the 13th Air Force deputy surgeon and exercise chief for Pacific Lifeline.

The exercise will test the entire operation -- deployment, set-up and operation of the medical facility. It will be spread across three islands: Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii (the Big Island).

The concept of the HUMRO OCP has been in place since December 2006, when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley issued a memorandum outlining the concept and its use in support of national military strategy, the Department of Defense's Theater Security Cooperation Strategy, and State Department nation-building programs.

The Air Force Surgeon General's Office developed the package. The impact of such capability is designed to be immediate; to provide on-the-scene medical care for the local population in an area hit by a natural disaster.

If the hospital were to deploy in response to a real-world disaster, the secretary of defense would notify the Air Force of the need to activate the hospital. Upon notification, the hospital package, with all required Airmen, is expected to be en route to its destination within 24 hours.

"Air evac is an enabling force that needs to be ready to go anywhere at anytime and this exercise meets that criteria," said Colonel Moore-Harbert. "As far as my guys, they are the best of the best for not only the Air Force Reserve, but the Air Force. My unit is the lead AE unit for this exercise and they continue to prove and demonstrate what an outstanding group of professionals are in the 446th AES."

When the medical providers arrive at the scene, they can begin seeing some patients almost immediately. Basic capability is to be established within 12 to 24 hours, and full operational capability within 36 hours.

The hospital is designed to deploy into a friendly area where the risk of chemical attack or hostile fire is low and some local infrastructure is available to provide additional support, including local law enforcement to control civil situations.

After 90 days, the hospital is designed to transition in its entirety to the host nation to operate as necessary.

"The medical package can be left behind, including facilities, supplies, equipment and the training required" to operate the hospital, Colonel Edwards said. Assigned Airmen would train local medical personnel to run the hospital and all equipment as part of the handover to the host nation.