Military News

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Flight doctors: Keeping RED FLAG flying, off the table

by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


5/5/2015 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska  -- An interesting day for them is a bad day for someone else, explained the flight doctor for RED FLAG-Alaska 15-2 when talking about the medical team tasked with the daily health and wellbeing of exercise participants.

Any time a patient is in a jet and not in his office Maj. David Leavy, 13th Fighter Squadron flight surgeon, and his Independent Duty Medical Technician Staff Sgt. Terrence Kneapler have done their duty and kept the mission moving.

"Our job is to keep our aviators and patients on special duty status in top health so they can do their job in a safe manner or get back to duty if there is a problem which needs attention," Leavy said.

Because of the influx of units visiting Eielson to participate in the contingency training, participating units send small teams of medical professionals to expedite issues without creating an immense workload for the 354th Fighter Wing, which hosts the exercise.

Although the reduced workload for resident medical teams is a large reason for the extra health workers, Leavy and Kneapler also bring a medical tool to the table that doesn't come in a book or sterilized package.

"We hold a professional relationship with each of our flyers," Leavy said. "We are not just the doctor and IDMT, we are part of the group. The pilots need to trust us and we need to trust them to be forthcoming and open to care. Knowing each individual and having a personal rapport with them is paramount to our mission."

If an Airman on special duty status uses a medical facility outside of flight qualified medical staff they are unable to continue with duty, such as flying, until cleared through a flight doctor; in this instance Leavy.

"We specialize in medicines that could affect flying and special duty along with what it takes a person to operate in the flying environment," he said.

For this team, RF-A is an additional training opportunity away from its home station at Misawa Air Base, Japan, to prepare its members in case of deployments or humanitarian aid opportunities.

"With the operating tempo here, you get a glimpse of what you will handle in a deployed environment," said Kneapler. "We have been deployed together in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and other operations. Although real-life deployments can become very busy compared to this, those are the times when training like this matters so much for us and the professionals we care for."

As the Pacific Air Forces flight surgeon of the year, Leavy has proven the technical expertise required to bring medical professionalism to the fight.

"Just one missed issue or lack of attention to detail could be disastrous not just for a member on special duty status, but it could cause loss of life or injury to the people around them," Leavy said. "We take pride in the mission and our guys to ensure something like that won't happen."

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