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Patriotic Article
War and Tragedy

By USAF TSgt. Oshawn Jefferson

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CASF Airmen Provide Total Care
(May 27, 2010)

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CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (Pril 20, 2010) — As combat operations continue in the Helmand province and coalition forces strive to eliminate the Taliban influence in the region, a small team of Total Force Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Det. 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility are here to assist U.S. causalities being evacuated to higher medical care or give them the care needed to return to duty.
Words from prior patients meant for the staff of the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Detachment 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, April 13, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
Words from prior patients meant for the staff of the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Detachment 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, April 13, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Photo by USAF SSSgt. Manuel Martinez
 "We are here to provide the best care possible for our Soldiers, Sailors and Marines serving on the frontlines," said Lt. Col. JoAnn Danner, 451st EAES Det. 1 CASF commander and reservist deployed from Travis AFB, Calif. "We are doing this by caring about the people we serve and doing what is right for them."

Traditionally, Airmen who support the CASF mission stage and care for patients awaiting aero-medical evacuation at a hospital or CASF.

Since Feb. 1, more than 515 patients have passed through the CASF. The 26 Airmen at the facility have assisted in the aero-medical evacuation of more than 340 patients. While the traditional execution of their mission has been
successful, the Airmen have been a force multiplier by helping more than 350 Marines return to duty.
"The CASF was originally set up to decompress the British hospital here, by ensuring that American air evacuation is readily available to take our wounded warriors to Germany and home," said Lt. Col. Paul Nelson, 451st EAES Det. 1 CASF chief of aerospace medicine deployed from Fairchild AFB, Wash. "While we have successfully done our CASF mission, we identified a new and unexpected opportunity by caring for some of our American service members here and returning them to duty."

To treat injuries caused by gunshots, shrapnel, improvised explosives, CASF Airmen serving at what is the third largest Marine base in the world — employing traditional first aid, changing bandages and dressings, and administering IVs and pain medications.

"These are the basics of our wartime-readiness skills and we keep them sharp by caring for our patients on a daily basis," added Danner, a native of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Keeping at the top their game, the CASF Airmen take on an added role, assisting U.S. Navy and Army medics by providing mental health, physical medicine as well as rehab and support services for patients.

"The CASF Airmen have bridged a large gap for us here at Camp Bastion," said Navy Capt. Scott Riechard, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force surgeon. "As the director of Health Policy for more than 19,000 Marines serving here, we needed people to help manage casualty flow to get our Marines the care needed to return to duty or evacuation. The extra service the CASF has offered has freed up hospital beds and the staff here has done a stupendous job of keeping our Marines in the fight, by getting them the proper care they need to get back to duty and preventing service members with treatable injuries from being medically evacuated."

While getting Marines back to duty isn't exactly "in the CASF ConOps books," Airmen here have improvised, by creating an atmosphere where patients can relax, unwind and heal in a place far more comfortable than a traditional hospital setting.

"I have gotten a chance to not only serve in my traditional assessment role as a nurse, but I have actually gotten a chance to hang out, watch movies and get to know our patients," said 1st Lt. Sean Amport, 451st EAES Det. 1 CASF registered nurse deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "Seeing what these Marines go through and getting to help them has given me new insight on myself and I know I will go home a better person for having had the chance to serve my fellow service members."

Becoming a casualty is not the goal of any Marine, but having the CASF available if that occurs has been a welcome sight to some. While most of the patients at the CASF express their gratitude in various messages written on the wall, some express their thanks on paper.

"I would like, really like to express how ... thankful I am for all the conversations, to all the jokes and Wii playing and the salsa dancing," said Marine Cpl. Matthew Scott, in a letter after returning to duty with his 3/6 India Company where he is the mortar section leader. "I highly doubt I would have been physically or mentally able to heal from my accident without you. Now when I am back in the fight kicking down some Tali's door or unloading a 28-round magazine at the enemy, I know I wouldn't be there without the great help and support of the CASF."

"Things like salsa dancing just seem to bring the morale of patients sky high," said Tech. Sgt. Ida Marrero, 451st EAES CASF medical administrator deployed from Patrick AFB, Fla. "Some of these guys are living in their cars for months and eating MREs, then something bad happens to them. We know we have a really important job of moving patients but to make them smile and remember the joyful things and happy experiences they are fighting for is just as important."

1st Lt. Sean Amport, left, a registered nurse assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Detachment 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, speaks with Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Spadaccini, assigned to 1/6 Marine Expeditionary Force, Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon about his injury, April 13, 2010, at Camp Bastion.
1st Lt. Sean Amport, left, a registered nurse assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Detachment 1 Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, speaks with Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Spadaccini, assigned to 1/6 Marine Expeditionary Force, Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon about his injury, April 13, 2010, at Camp Bastion. Photo by USAF SSSgt. Manuel Martinez
 For one Marine, who was shot in the shoulder the day prior while on patrol with his unit, his time with the CASF has been welcome, but he can't wait until he can be with his fellow Corpsmen.

"The people here have been great, they gave me some clean clothes, a hot shower and I got some Pizza," said Lance Cpl. Chris Spadaccini, 1/6 MEF Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon squad automatic weapon gunner. "They have been patching me up and making me feel at home. I know they will help get me back on my feet so I can rejoin my unit. I miss them already."

For Airmen at the CASF, getting these brave warriors back to higher medical facilities or returning them
to duty is an honor.
"I feel like we are making a difference for people out here," said Senior Airman Magali Perez, 451st CASF medical technician deployed from Travis AFB. "I get a chance to focus and do my job, so my patients can get back to doing theirs. We have a lot of guys putting their lives on the line for their country and I am proud to serve them."

As Operation Moshtarak marches on, coalition forces will continue to keep the Taliban on the run, but if the need arises the Airmen at the CASF will be here ensuring they get on the flight or stay in the fight.
By USAF TSgt. Oshawn Jefferson, U.S. AFCENT Combat Camera Team
Copyright 2010

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