Iraqi Air Force helicopter medevac system reaches major milestone

14-Mar-2010 Source: United States Forces - Iraq

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi Air Force helicopter medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) system reached a major milestone March 7 as parliamentary elections were underway. For the first time an Iraqi MEDEVAC crew was there to provide point-of-injury care at the scene of a medical emergency.

Since its rebirth in late 2004, the Iraqi Air Force had used its helicopters only for routine patient transport from one medical facility to another. But in response to a Ministry of Defense directive aircraft, aircrews and flight medics were on alert to rapidly respond, if necessary, to a mass casualty incident.

“In anticipation of potential violence on election day, we suggested that standing up such a capability … might demonstrate Iraq’s readiness to take the next step in advancing its MEDEVAC system,” said Col. (Dr.) Eric Nelson, the U.S. Air Force’s Senior Medical Advisor with the Iraq Training & Advisory Mission – Air Force.

Establishing an agile rapid MEDEVAC response capability requires dedicated aircrews and medical teams on alert status, along with the command and control and communications infrastructure to support and direct operations. The Iraqi Air Force is building capacity for crews and medics who will provide a 24 hour/7 days a week MEDEVAC capability.

Iraq’s MEDEVAC crews are all based at Taji Air Base, just north of Baghdad. U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Robert Ramirez, ITAM-AF flight Medic Advisor, worked with his small team of Iraqi Air Force flight medics to ensure they were ready for anything they might face in responding to the point of injury.

“There are lots of moving pieces to a MEDEVAC mission, and rapid coordination of an urgent mission is probably the biggest challenge the Iraqis face,” Nelson said.

Although there were several acts of violence during the elections, none of these events was large enough to require the MEDEVAC response units. “This was a very welcome outcome, but it was reassuring to know that they were ready,” said Nelson. “I have no doubt that they would have done well.”

Written by United States Forces – Iraq PAO

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