Okies support total force by enabling critical aeromedical training

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Amanda Hacman
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Specially qualified Air Force medics provide time sensitive, mission critical en route care to patients to and between treatment facilities to fulfill one of the Air Force’s most critical mission sets.

Reservists from the 507th Air Refueling Wing from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, partnered with guardsmen from the 137th Special Operations Wing at Will Rogers World Airport, Oklahoma, in total force training efforts multiple times this year.

Aeromedical evacuation training missions ensure aircrew from multiple platforms receive necessary competency training required to remain mission capable. The 465th Air Refueling Squadron and the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron successfully performed multiple sorties designed to increase their combat readiness capabilities.

Maj. Ryan Burkitt, 465th Air Refueling Squadron chief pilot, said the tanker’s capability to participate in AE missions is invaluable to the refueling squadron’s own skillset development.

“Training missions like these give us the opportunity to coordinate, plan and execute off-station missions for our new aircraft commander candidates,” said Burkitt. “Our capabilities are versatile and give not only our crews but other units the ability to train in different environments and under diverse conditions.”

Burkitt has more than eight years of experience on the KC-135 and is responsible for the training, upgrading and certification of nearly 50 pilots.

Along with conducting AE sorties, the Okies performed aerial refueling on each trip, refueling multiple airframes en route. Burkitt affirmed that total force missions are a requirement for aircrew to be able to answer the call.

“Being innovative with our training against the backdrop of emerging threats gives us a unique opportunity to construct what were once formally individualized mission sets, into dynamic, iterated and complex scenarios that work all the muscles at once,” said Burkitt.

KC-135R Stratotanker aircrews are trained to conduct in-flight refueling operations for strategic bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, and airlift and fighter aircraft, as directed by the Department of Defense, anytime and anywhere. Successful execution strengthens U.S. military operations and national objectives.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Cole, a 137th AES aeromedical evacuation technician, said that being able to work with the Okies is a huge advantage.

“Tinker doesn’t have AE, and we do a lot of this at Will Rogers,” said Cole. “Working with the Okies hopefully highlights AE capabilities, bringing awareness that the Air Force has a huge capability with patients in reach, depending on which aircraft are in the area.”

Cole’s specialized experience is required for the future of the AE mission set.

“Specialized training opportunities with the Okies keep us more prepared for where the mission is going, which is unregulated patient movement,” said Cole. “We won’t know what type of patients we will get, nor will we know what the scenario will be on the ground. We will show up and be ready to take on any patient care as needed.”

The 137th SOW and the 507th ARW share a common history with more than 10 years as the Air Reserve Component’s first association between the Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard, before the 137th SOW transitioned to the MC-12W. The 137th SOW became the second ANG wing to be a part of the USAF Special Operations Command.