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Saving lives, right here, right now

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Gene Lappe
  • 506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
The men and women of the 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron have an advantage when it comes to treating casualties--they are all deployed here from the 48th Medical Group at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.

The doctors, nurses and technicians have spent the last six months training together and forging working relationships that translate to better medical care.

"It is unique that all 44 members of the 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron are all from (RAF) Lakenheath," said Col. Robert Miller, 506th EMEDS commander. "We were the lead wing for Air Expeditionary Forces 3/4, so the tasking fell to us to fill the required positions by default.

"It doesn't happen very often, but it is a great opportunity for our hospital because being an AF medic is a great job and being able to do what you are trained to do, it just doesn't get better than that," he added.

He said he had no problem filling those positions, because he had several volunteers for the limited number of slots.

Deployment and training

"As we were gearing up for this deployment, it was a huge advantage to get to train together for the last four to six months and start to make those professional relationships," said Colonel Miller, commander of the 48th MDG . "The closer you are a team, the better you are able to communicate, the more effective you are and the better care you can provide."

Part of the training for this deployment included EMEDS basic training at Brooks City-Base, Texas. He added that his crew hit the ground running here and didn't have to spend days, weeks or months trying to get spun-up and develop as a team, the team was already there.

That feeling of unity and cohesion was echoed by the unit staff.

"We generally had a knowledge of who each of us are, so we bonded together as a team a lot faster that most people would," said Tech. Sgt. Duane Keel, emergency room assistant NCO in charge. "When you have a lot of people from different bases, there is a feeling-out process learning who everyone is and what they have to offer. We didn't; we figured that out before we deployed and came together as a team very quickly."

Senior Airman Kari Wehr, an operating room technician, is on her first deployment. She said her short time here had been a real eye opening experience, but the training was paying off.

"The training teaches you to move at a faster pace, how to plan ahead and anticipate what the doctor wants," said Airman Wehr. "Also, I have worked with two of the doctors for two years and I know what each expects in the operation room, and this results in better care for the patient."

One of three trauma surgeons for the 506th EMEDS, Maj. Patton Davis said it was a big comfort factor to deploy as a group.

"As a group, we did a lot of problem solving when we first received notification of the deployment," he said. "We are able to balance people's strengths and put folks in the right job.

The preplanning was fantastic, requiring very little adjustment time when we got here."

The medical personnel have treated almost 700 sick call and routine care cases, as well as more than 35 emergency cases since mid- September.


Most people here have noticed the helicopters that operate in and out of Kirkuk, but what you may not know is some of those helicopters are transporting wounded personnel to the 506th EMEDS for treatment. Those casualties are rushed into the emergency room for evaluation.

If the wounds are severe enough, the surgical team is called in to repair the damage.

Sometimes, the injuries are too severe for the staff to completely handle, so they move into a different mode - stabilize and prepare for transport to bigger facilities, either at Balad or over to Germany.

Routine stuff

While the 506th EMEDS' primary mission is to treat battlefield injuries, it isn't controlled chaos 24/7. The squadron's personnel have dealt with a variety of ailments: stomach flu, colds, twisted ankles and other sports injuries, rashes, infections and more.

They also have a dental staff on hand, Life Skills personnel and other departments such as a pharmacy, radiology and a laboratory. It's exactly like any hospital in the states - just on a much smaller scale.

Colonel Miller said he could sum up the 506th EMEDS mission in its credo--"Expeditionary medics saving lives, right here, right now."