JOINT BASE ANDREWS-NAVAL AIR FACILITY WASHINGTON, Md.
(AFNS - 8/20/2012) -- It was his first deployment to
Afghanistan, and to make matters worse, he was assigned to
one of the busiest trauma centers in the region. Staff Sgt.
Caleb Gibson felt a sense of shock, pride and satisfaction
as he watched U.S. military medical personnel treat injured
Staff Sgts. Caleb Gibson, left, and Erick Bartels use patient simulator equipment to check Propaq Encore monitors at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Aug. 15, 2012. The Airmen are biomedical equipment technicians assigned to the Medical Logistics Flight of the 779th Medical Support Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo/
by Val Gempis
"It was shocking to see the extent of injuries in there. But at
the same time I felt pride and satisfaction because the medical
equipment that was helping these people stay alive belonged to me,"
Gibson is a biomedical equipment technician
assigned to the Medical Logistics Flight of the 779th Medical
Support Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The unit's mission is to
equip and provide medical forces for Air and Space Expeditionary
Force deployments, homeland operations and support joint operations
within the National Capital Region. They also support aeromedical
evacuation aircraft returning sick or injured patients from
Southwest Asia to the U.S.
An integral part of their
operation is to ensure that Patient Movement Items, including
equipment, durable supplies, and consumable
supplies, are working properly. These include ventilators,
defibrillators, respirators, monitors, infusion pumps and oxygen
analyzers. These items are maintained by a team of Airmen and
civilians at a warehouse at Andrews.
Gibson said that his time in Afghanistan made him realize
just how important his job is. At his home unit PMI
equipment can sit on shelves for weeks or months until
needed. At Bagram AB they are used daily. "Seeing them used
on our troops daily was tough, but it really hit home that
you were making a difference. It gives you a different
perspective when you see blood on them," he added.
"Our job is to provide the best possible healthcare to our
warriors. They have done their part for our country then
it's our turn to provide lifesaving care and get them home
as soon as possible," said Maj. James Camilleri, commander
of the 779th MLF. He said the equipment is vital to
sustaining the increasing high survivability rates of
injured servicemembers once they reach the Theatre
Aeromedical Evacuation System.
The Air Force
maintains and trains its own biomedical equipment repair
technicians. The Airmen here service and maintain about
2,000 pieces of PMI equipment worth more than $19 million.
They also handle about 200 pieces monthly that comes from
Southwest Asia. They are used for surgery and other medical
Staff Sgt. Erick Bartels is also a
biomedical equipment technician who has deployed to Kuwait
and Iraq and added that there's no room for error when
maintaining this equipment. "They have to be precise. A drug
delivery machine that's not calibrated correctly can kill
someone," he added.
Bartels also said that one of the
most challenging aspects of their job is that there are no
technical orders for their equipment. Unlike aircraft
mechanics who rely on TOs when fixing planes, biomedical
equipment technicians must keep up with the fast changing
And the lack of TOs can be tough at
deployed locations. "We spend a lot of time researching on
the Internet and calling companies. We don't have
contractors who can come out and fix them," he said.
But servicing and maintaining equipment is not the only job
that these Airmen do when deployed. They maintain ambulances
and facilities, as well as help move patients from gurneys
to the aircraft during aeromedical evacuations. Although the
hours are long and the work is exhausting, deployments are a
great learning experience for them. Working with people from
different services, and learning to do things differently
helps them get better at what they do.
mentioned that he feels proud every time he sees an
aeromedical evacuation aircraft carrying wounded warriors
land at Andrews. "These troops have a special place in my
heart for the sacrifices that they have made. It makes me
feel great to know I'll be working on equipment used on
By Val Gempis, Air Force News Service
Air Force News Service
Comment on this article