JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- The United States Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force conducted the first-ever Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) Subject Matter Expert Exchange at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Aug. 28.
The event integrated with the Operation Ascending Eagle (OAE) exercise led by the United States Army Pacific, 18th Medical Command. The OAE aimed to exercise the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command intra-theater patient movement system between the Korea Theater of Operations and the Japan Area of Operations.
On the Korean peninsula, 7th Air Force provides "ready to fight tonight" airpower whenever and wherever needed by integrating with ROKAF's air capabilities. When medical care is limited on the front lines, aeromedical evacuation provides a rapid and safe patient evacuation capability. To ensure seamless operations, the U.S. Air Force and ROKAF aeromedical evacuation teams must collaborate to provide combined and coordinated patient transport and medical support for the operational mission.
"There is a difference in the concept of operating AE between two countries,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Randoph Matias, 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, Kadena Air Base, Japan. “AE in ROKAF is primarily used for contingency while the U.S. operates AE for service members in peacetime as well as a contingency. I am impressed to see ROKAF is passionate to enhance the AE readiness. We will find the best way to leverage AE capabilities of both countries so we can maximize the synergy effect in the operation."
The goal of this SMEE was to build trust and enhance interoperability to support the mission of ROK-U.S. Combined Force Command by understanding and synchronizing both parties' AE capabilities.
First, U.S. participants demonstrated aeromedical evacuation equipment inside a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules, which arrived for Operation Assending Eagle from Yokota Air Base, Japan. During the exchange, a range of topics were discussed such as casualty evacuation and medical evacuation, the Continuous En-Route Care System, the different levels of care (I, II, III, and IV), aeromedical evacuation systems and training programs for the U.S. and ROK.
"As a medical team, the priority is to save a life. To do that, we don't need to separate the U.S. and ROK military members in our mission. For the most effective operation, it is imperative to understand each other and require the continuous training and exercise jointly," said Capt. Scott Suter, Medical Operations and Plans chief, 7th Air Force Surgeon General Office.
During the SMEE, the participants learned existing challenges such as language barriers, a different set of equipment, and competency of AE crew.
"Our relationship remains strong. We must consolidate our efforts to overcome those challenges,” said Lt. Col. Jae-sik Jung, Office of the Surgeon General chief, Republic of Korea Air Force Operations Command. “We will continue to work together and exercise to synchronize and consolidate both capabilities."
Evnets such as Subject Matter Expert Exchanges helps promote strong interoperability between the U.S. and the ROK.
“Our goal is to assist the ROKAF in sustaining their air-capable patient movement system and effectively support all military contingency and disaster response situations,” said Maj. Ryan Jung, Pacific Air Forces Office of the Command Surgeon international health specialist. “To accomplish that goal, we need to develop a long-term road map and take actions step by step with 7th Air Force and ROKAF."