Reserve MSC career field proves hard to the 'corps': AES brings 'em home (Part 4 of 4)

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Medical Service Corps officers can share several characteristics--for instance, an understanding of administrative procedures, an attention-to-detail mindset, and a knack for encouraging teamwork.

But when their primary mission consists of stabilizing critically-injured patients throughout the aeromedical evacuation system, the MSC officer's duties are supplemented with more key elements--just ask any of the dozen assigned to the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here.

"All MSC's have the same core responsibilities in running hospital administrative operations," said Lt. Col. John Olmedo, 446th AES Operations Flight commander. "However, in AES, we have the added duties of supporting ground and operational AE flights and ground support."

Airmen in the unit receive ground-operations training, said Olmedo, whose twin brother is an Army MSC officer. However, the clinicians can't focus on treating patients, while running the squadron's operations, logistics, and administrative sections day-in and day-out. Sustaining long-term operations would be difficult without the MSCs and enlisted medical administrators.

"I like to look at it as we're the glue for each (medical) squadron," said Maj. Peter Jorgensen, 446th AES Support Flight deputy commander. "Our focus is taking care of patients in the air. We manage crews--getting them the most recent patient information, so they can do their brief, and evaluate the patients who need to be picked up, or taken to another location."

Jorgensen supported the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron here, as a healthcare administrator before moving to the 446th AES.

In deployed locations, the staging unit's MSC acts as a liaison between the clinic and the aeromedical evacuation unit, Jorgensen said. Typically, the patients are transferred from the hospital to the staging squadron, where they continue to receive patient care there from the clinical staff--in most cases up to 24 hours.

When the aircraft arrives, the ill, injured, and wounded are moved from the staging unit to the aircraft, where they continue to receive medical care, he added.

"As an MSC, you would be managing that patient movement, and coordinating with the AE ground-ops folks to manage and determine what point you're going to do your patient movement to the aircraft, and airlift the patient out of the area," he said.

A lot of what administrators in staging units normally do, is manage programs, Jorgensen said. It could be the fitness program, logistics and readiness, or the administrative area--any of a whole litany of programs an MSC officer might run for the squadron.

Since healthcare administrators in AE units primarily deal with patient movement, their roles also differ from what they would normally perform in an aerospace medicine unit--or a hospital.

"At a clinic, (the MSCs) are taking care of family-practice types of issues," Jorgensen said. "Within that role as an MSC officer, you may be managing a particular admin section for the clinic--maybe a program manager for taking care of other administrative duties. You're managing folks. You're directing folks. You're maintaining a program within the clinic."

Olmedo said the assortment of opportunities help preserve the freshness of the health services area.

"I was actually told by an MSC friend, when I was active duty, that (the MSC career field) was the best kept secret in the Air Force," said the prior-enlisted Airman. "Today, I would say the same thing. We get to work in all aspects of healthcare, but we also get to support an important mission. You'll never be bored, as there is always something to do; there are plenty of challenges."

Like Olmedo, Jorgensen earned his brass after serving as an enlisted Airman. He said it's a common career path for Reserve Medical Service Corps officers.

"I'm prior enlisted, and had the opportunity to get my degree and apply for Medical Service Corps," Jorgensen said. "You need to have a (bachelor's) in business or health administration, management, or health services. Any of those degree programs can provide you the opportunity to get your commission."

With 446th AES Citizen Airmen due to deploy overseas this month, Olmedo said it's all about teamwork.

"Our mantra is train-train-train. But in the end, it's all about the people," he said. "Our folks hate to lose!"

(Editor's note: This is the fourth, and final, part of a series on the Air Force Reserve, Medical Service Corps officer career field.)