by Delanie Stafford
55th Wing Public Affairs
7/27/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb -- The
Air National Guard used a C-17 to transport three simulated patients
with highly infectious illnesses from Volk Field Wisconsin to Offutt Air
Force Base, Nebraska July 23.
This was all part of an annual exercise called PATRTIOT 15, an
interagency field training exercise used to practice domestic operations
within the United States.
Offutt's role in the exercise was to coordinate the reception of the
aircraft and to provide a safe and secure airfield for the transfer of
"Overall, we think the exercise went very well," said Lt. Col. Chris
Luther, 55th Wing Crisis Action Team director, who oversaw the exercise
and led the first Ebola patient reception into Offutt in 2014. "It was a
collaborate effort with local emergency response agencies that
reinforced our preparedness for such an event."
The exercise included aeromedical evacuation of patients. In addition to
training, the exercise was also used to demonstrate the Transport
Isolation Unit, which is a newly developed piece of equipment that
became operational earlier this year.
Each module of the TIS can be configured to carry up to four patients at
a time, depending on the degree of their illness, and three modules
make up one unit. The unit provides an enclosed negative pressure
environment intended to prevent the spread of biological contaminates
through the air or by contact.
Until recently, patients with illnesses such as the Ebola virus disease
and SARS could only be transported by a single-occupancy patient
isolation unit that limited the type of care that could be given.
"We can provide critical care in the air, inside the TIS, that other
units really aren't capable of doing," said Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Kory
Cornum, Air Mobility Command Surgeon. "So it gives us not only
capability for more patients, but care during transport."
The Department of Defense is in the process of acquiring more of the
units and hopes to have 25 available by the end of the year. Each unit
can be loaded onto a C-17 or C-130 aircraft for the transfer of multiple
critical-care patients anywhere in the world.
"Last year we had several thousand people in Liberia potentially exposed
to Ebola,"Cornum said. "That's when we realized [the single patient
isolation unit] wasn't good enough."
More than 50 people from UNMC, Offutt AFB, and local medical response
agencies attended a demonstration inside the cargo area of a C-17 during
a pause in the exercise. Doctors from the Critical Care Air Transport
Team, assigned to the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San
Antonio-Lackland, Texas, gave demonstrations on personal protective
equipment and how their team will use the system to transport and treat
the most critical patients.
Staff from UNMC's Biocontainment Unit, which is the largest unit in the
nation, were impressed by the demonstration and capabilities of the new
"This is exciting and an honor for [UNMC] to be here and to be involved
on the receiving end," said Dr. Phillip Smith, medical director of the
Biocontainment Unit at UNMC. "This is just a way to keep getting ready
because you never know when you're going to get the call."