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CCATT Pilot Unit sparks innovation in Chilean program

By Kiley Dougherty | 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 12, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Lackland, Texas — Medical health officers from the Chilean Air Force visited the 59th Medical Wing on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Dec. 7 to gain a better understanding of Critical Care Air Transportation Teams. 

Teams operate an intensive care unit in an aircraft cabin during flight, adding critical care capability to the U.S. Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation System. 

Chile stood up their program in 1998, just two years after the U.S. Air Force formally approved and adopted the mission.

The 59th MDW is the designated CCATT Pilot Unit and is responsible for concept of operations, performance improvement, and innovations to equipment and procedures. 

“Our goal is to bring our CCAT Teams up to the same critical care standards as the U.S.,” said Lt. Col. Claudio Montiglio, Chilean medical health officer. “In the future, we hope we can partner with the U.S. This visit will give us a better idea of how we can improve and how we can better train our people to see an impact in the real world.” 

The visit began with the Chileans touring the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center Simulation Center, which provides a hands-on learning environment through the use of high-fidelity mannequins and virtual reality simulators, before visiting Camp Bramble, the CCATT training and mission staging location. 

“As a patient moves from a hospital anywhere in the world to a hospital back in the United States, the level of ICU care will not change,” said Maj. Shane Runyon, En Route Critical Care Pilot Unit manager. “It is a critical care physician, critical care nurse and respiratory therapist that maintain the same standard of care in transport as you would have being in a physical ICU.” 

Each CCATT carries roughly 560 pounds of gear, enough to continue the level of acute care for three critically ill patients up to 24-hours.

Currently, the Air Force CCAT teams are assisting the countries of Georgia, Turkey, Columbia, Bangladesh and Mexico in developing similar programs. 

“On the next battlefield, you never know who our partners are going to be, so if we are able to train their medical personnel up to the same level as our medical personnel then we can work hand-in-hand,” Runyon said. “Medical personnel on the battlefield is a limited supply and being able to trust our partners to be able to treat service members at the same level as we would means we would have more options.”

CCAT teams also support peacetime movement of critically ill beneficiaries of the military health care system, as well as humanitarian assistance such as airplane crashes and natural disasters. 

“Global partnerships are not only significant for the military but for humanitarian assistance,” Runyon said. “If it was a hurricane, earthquake or any other natural disaster that happened outside of our boarders, we’d know what level they are transporting their patients and know that people would be getting the same standard of care across the board.”

Continuing to strengthen these international partnerships enables contingency flexibility for the future military medicine.