TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, California —
During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force Airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Forces largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.
They were joined in the proof of concept by other active-duty Airmen and civilians from various commands and units, including the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.
The proof of concept event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5 making the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.
“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems, and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”
The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the Airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.
“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It's a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”
With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.
“It was great to observe, first hand, our Airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, director of AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”
The C-5M AE mission not only benefits readiness for any future conflicts it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.
“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and do mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse. “Just being able to help either troops or humanitarian relief and pitch-in for that makes my job even more exciting and just warms my heart.”
The C-5M and the active-duty Airmen crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the proof of concept by other active-duty Airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES out of Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES out of Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, and the 433rd AES out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas also joined them.
Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES with the Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.
This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.
“It's always beneficial to have the total force working together … as one team,” Paterson said. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”
With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.
“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5 as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”
Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.
The importance of having this great ally wasn’t lost on those who participated in the weeks' events.
“I can say yep; I was there at the very beginning of the C5 (AE testing) to help out and to provide input to troubleshoot questions,” Paterson said. “And to get AE on this aircraft hopefully up and running and transporting troops, so that we can do it. I mean there's nothing more rewarding than to look back on your career and say I was part of making history.”