Members of the 776th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron conducted a combined medical evacuation exercise with French Allies on Chabelley Airfield, Djibouti, May 31, 2021. The exercise helped streamline patient transport operations with partner forces from Chabelley Airfield to Camp Lemonnier.
“The training utilized the French helicopter as a platform to move patients from Chabelley over to Camp Lemonnier,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Stephanie Mckinley, a medical operations officer with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. “It allowed the medics that were on the ground at Chabelley to treat mass casualty patients and then transport them over to the hospital here at CLDJ.”
A simulated vehicle rollover kicked-off the exercise at Chabelley Airfield. U.S. medics then treated, triaged and transported 15 simulated patients via ambulance and one patient via air evacuation. The SA 330 Puma helicopter and French medics provided support during the exercise.
“We want to practice so that it’s easier in a real-life situation to evacuate patients,” said Maj. Vincent, the deputy of air operations for the French Air Base. “It’s important for the French and U.S. medics to cooperate so there’s no problem. Both forces conduct many operations outside Camp Lemonnier that might require an air asset for evacuation.”
While the exercise focused on a mass casualty response to a vehicle rollover, other constant threats in the Djibouti area include extreme heat and dangerous wildlife, such as, scorpions and deadly snakes.
“Vertical lift can be essential for a number of medical evacuations, including those that do not occur in close proximity to a runway or a ship at sea,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Vincent Walker, an air operations officer with CJTF-HOA. “This training validated that the U.S. Personnel Recovery Coordination Center (PRCC) is able to call on the French Pumas that are on alert in order to respond to a medical evacuation.”
Having a medical evacuation capability through the French provides a vital resource for the forces in the Horn of Africa.
“When called, the Pumas have one hour to take flight,” said Vincent. “It can save time for patients that require immediate attention but are further from a medical facility, reducing a driving time that could take an hour to only minutes by air.”