Air Guard Con­ducts Med­ical Evac­u­a­tion in Antarc­ti­ca

By Air Force Maj. Sam High­ley
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Service 

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii, Nov. 6, 2008 — A com­bined U.S. and Aus­tralian team evac­u­at­ed an Aus­tralian civil­ian in Antarc­ti­ca to a hos­pi­tal in Hobart, Aus­tralia, yesterday. 

Air Guard Conducts Medical Evacuation in Antarctica
An LC-130 Her­cules sits on an impro­vised ice run­way at Davis Sta­tion, Antarc­ti­ca, Nov. 3, 2008. A U.S. and Aus­tralian med­ical team moved an injured Aus­tralian civil­ian aboard the air­craft from the camp to a hos­pi­tal in Hobart, Aus­tralia. The mis­sion was flown as part of Oper­a­tion Deep Freeze, com­mand­ed by U.S. Pacif­ic Command’s Joint Task Force Sup­port Forces Antarc­ti­ca at Hick­am Air Force Base, Hawaii.
Cour­tesy photo 

The seri­ous­ly injured patient was part of an Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion con­tin­gent con­duct­ing sci­en­tif­ic research at Davis Sta­tion, Antarc­ti­ca. He was report­ed to be in sta­ble con­di­tion while receiv­ing med­ical care in Hobart for mul­ti­ple frac­tures caused by an all-ter­rain vehi­cle accident. 

A med­ical team flew 1,500 miles from McMur­do Sta­tion in Antarc­ti­ca to Davis Sta­tion Nov. 3 aboard an LC-130 Her­cules from the New York Air Nation­al Guard’s 109th Air­lift Wing, based out of Strat­ton Air Nation­al Guard Base, N.Y. The ski-equipped air­craft land­ed on an impro­vised run­way pre­pared by Davis Sta­tion per­son­nel ear­li­er in the week. 

The med­ical team, along with air­crew mem­bers and an air­craft main­te­nance team, spent the night at Davis Sta­tion to rest, refu­el the air­craft and pre­pare the patient before begin­ning the 10-hour flight to Hobart on Nov. 4. 

The mis­sion was flown as part of Oper­a­tion Deep Freeze, which is com­mand­ed by U.S. Pacif­ic Command’s Joint Task Force Sup­port Forces Antarc­ti­ca. With head­quar­ters here and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA’s mis­sion is to pro­vide air­lift and sealift sup­port to the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and U.S. Antarc­tic Program. 

The med­ical team con­sist­ed of an Aus­tralian doc­tor and nurse, a joint med­ical atten­dant trans­port team com­posed of three Army med­ical per­son­nel from Tripler Army Med­ical Cen­ter, Hawaii, and three Air Force med­ical per­son­nel for­ward-deployed to McMurdo. 

Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Greg Richert, the onboard flight sur­geon, said the suc­cess­ful med­ical move­ment sym­bol­ized two things for him. 

“One is the very effec­tive med­ical move­ment capa­bil­i­ty we have here in the Pacif­ic region, and the oth­er is the strong part­ner­ship between the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion, the Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion and Joint Task Force Sup­port Forces Antarc­ti­ca,” Richert said. 

The cap­tain, who is for­ward-deployed from 13th Air Force to McMur­do Sta­tion as the JTF SFA flight sur­geon, said it was espe­cial­ly grat­i­fy­ing to use the team’s med­ical move­ment capa­bil­i­ty to help the Aus­tralians in Antarctica. 

“The Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia have long enjoyed a strong bond, and it was real­ly evi­dent in how our com­bined team was able to help this patient in his time of need,” Richert said. 

Tony Press, direc­tor of the Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion, said he was grate­ful for the sup­port the Unit­ed States provided. 

“It’s a trib­ute to our excel­lent rela­tion­ship with the U.S. Antarc­tic Pro­gram and a fan­tas­tic exam­ple of the col­lab­o­ra­tion that typ­i­fies Antarc­tic oper­a­tions,” Press said. 

The move­ment was the first major mis­sion for the LC-130 in the cur­rent Oper­a­tion Deep Freeze sea­son. The New York unit is the only unit in the Air Force that oper­ates the LC-130 Her­cules, which can land on snow or ice sur­faces through­out Antarc­ti­ca thanks to its ski-equipped land­ing gear. The plane also has wheels for land­ing on pre­pared hard surfaces. 

(Air Force Maj. Sam High­ley serves in the Joint Task Force Sup­port Forces Antarc­ti­ca Pub­lic Affairs Office.) 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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