Medevac Officer Helping Army One Invention At A Time
by Devon Suits, Army News Service
October 15, 2020
Mahdi Al-Husseini had his whole career figured out as he enrolled
in Georgia Institute of Technology back in 2013. He knew he would
graduate with a joint degree in biomedical engineering and public
policy before attending graduate school for computer science.
From there, he planned to pursue a job in the defense and space
The idea of joining the Army never once crossed his
mind, he said. He knew nothing of his school's Reserve Officer
Training Corps, or ROTC, and the vast opportunities in the Army.
Now a first lieutenant, Al-Husseini serves as an active-duty
aeromedical evacuations officer with 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation
Regiment at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii.
September 9. 2020 - First Lt. Mahdi Al-Husseini serves as an active-duty aeromedical evacuations officer with 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii. He is also an engineer currently developing an aerial hoist stabilization system that could help save lives during an in-air medical extraction. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Shane Toombs)
He is also an
engineer currently developing an aerial hoist stabilization system
that could help save lives during an in-air medical extraction.
"There is something unique about the medevac mission," he said.
"We ensure that America's sons and daughters -- individuals that
have experienced great tragedy -- have an opportunity to return
While Al-Husseini's passion for
engineering never wavered during college, he did find a deeper
calling to support something greater than himself.
quickly soared to the top of his list, as he joined ROTC during his
junior year. He was determined to give back to the people and
institutions that helped him succeed.
"After I joined, I was
deciding between a few different Army branches: medical services,
engineering, or cyber," Al-Husseini said. "That same year, I
interned at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab."
USAARL looks to deliver scientific solutions to help save lives,
according to lab officials. Research efforts target biomedical,
physiological, and psychological issues, as the Army aims to
increase the performance of aviation, airborne, and ground
As an intern, Al-Husseini assisted the lab's
experimental testing efforts tied to various aviation helmets. He
eventually crossed paths with two medevac pilots working on a
separate project. The three became friends as they started to
"This was the first time I talked in depth
about the medical evacuation mission," Al-Husseini said. "We are
responsible for bringing home America's wounded warriors. In my
opinion, this is truly one of theArmy's no-fail mission sets."
Influenced by his peers' passion and drive, Al-Husseini's
outlook on engineering and his future career decisions started to
"My experience [with USAARL] cemented my interest in
the aeromedical mission. I decided to request medical services as my
first choice of branch," he said.
"I [now] look at
engineering and computer science as tools in my toolbox,” he added.
“I love engineering and computer science … but as an engineer, you
have to decide what to do with those tools.”
Shortly after college, Al-Husseini
found himself at Fort Rucker, Alabama, for flight training. It was
around the same time that he started building his own company, a
combined team of Army aviators and engineers, to develop their
Stabilizing Aerial Loads Utility System.
"When we perform a
medical evacuation on a real mission, usually it is the worst day of
a patient's life," he said. "I wanted to use my skills and tool in a
way that supports these Soldiers."
During an in-air medevac
mission, pilots are trained to control the aircraft as the
hoist-line sways from the downward force of air created by the
vehicle's rotor system. Commonly known as downwash, this aerodynamic
force can cause the hoist line to spin or oscillate, putting a
patient or operator at risk.
"There have been fatalities
connected to the spin, sway, or oscillation of the hoist line," Al-Husseini
said. "There have been a lot of folks that are negatively affected,
either through asphyxiation, fatigue, or nausea. These real problems
are impacting our patients, which are already in a compromised
The new hoist-line system is designed to connect
between a patient's litter and the line's base. The device's
internal control system will help stabilize the patient through a
series of automatic spinning reaction wheels to counter the hoisted
September 9. 2020 - First Lt. Mahdi Al-Husseini, left, an aeromedical evacuations officer, next to his engineering teammates, Anthony Chen and Joshua Barnett, as they show off their Stabilizing Aerial Loads Utility System. (Courtesy photo of 1st Lt. Mahdi Al-Husseini)
As Al-Husseini continued through flight
training, he split himself between two worlds. He spent most of his
time learning to be an aeromedical evacuation officer, and then his
free time on his invention.
He credits much of his success to
the overwhelming support he received from leadership and colleagues
during training and his career, including Capt. Kimberly Smith.
"It is amazing to see everything that he's done and
accomplished, all while learning how to fly," said Smith, commander
of Company D, 1st Bn., 145th Avn. Rgt. at the Army Aviation Center
Al-Husseini remained committed to his team as
they entered their new aerial load system into several competitions,
including the Army's xTechSearch.
"The xTechSearch program is
incredibly well run," he said. "It is so important to the many small
businesses that are working to develop technology" that might aid in
the Army's future.
The Army's acquisition process can be
confusing and overwhelming for a smaller business, he added. Through
the competition, small business owners develop connections and can
earn possible funding for a specific program.
"It is an
exciting time to be in the Army right now and be an engineer," Al-Husseini
said. "The Army is working to improve on a technical level, and the
xTechSearch program is a model blueprint" for the way ahead.
To attend these competitions, Al-Husseini had to request a delay in
training, Smith said. Pausing a Soldier's education could negatively
impact their career, and is typically granted on a case-by-case
"When you are on the flight line, it can definitely
become very challenging. Your purpose is to learn how to fly," Smith
said. "I always preach to the students: you have to find balance.
"I am impressed that [Al-Husseini] managed all of flight school
and graduated, all while designing a device that could be beneficial
for the Army," she added.
Currently, the device from Al-Husseini’s
team is being evaluated by USAARL. If selected, it could become a
vital tool in support of the medevac mission, he said.
the device on an Army aircraft, “would be a dream come true,” he
added. “Not for myself and the success of my team, and not for any
financial gain. Just knowing that each Soldier will be better off
because of what we developed … is more than I could possibly ask
Alternatively, if his device does not meet the Army’s
final selection process, Al-Husseini would applaud the decision.
“I do not want my device to be selected if there is a better
device that exists,” he added. “I want whatever is best for our
Soldiers in the field. That is what it means to be an engineer. You
have to continue to scrap your designs or refine to pivot and to
create new ideas.”
Overall, Al-Husseini said, the Army is a
diverse force full of incredibly inventive and resourceful people.
"Identify a problem and find a way to solve it," he added. "You
will be amazed at how supportive the Army can be. I think this is
one of the things that makes our Army the greatest in the world.
want to encourage Soldiers to think outside the box and continue to
push their limits to find ways to improve their organization.
Because at the end of the day -- no one knows their mission set
better than they do."
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