FAIRFORD, UNITED KINGDOM --
At a typical air force base, Airmen have a full medical staff to look after them if they become ill. This is not the case at many deployed locations, and for the roughly 800 Airmen deployed here, they have four medical personnel supporting their needs.
Two flight surgeons and two medical technicians from the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing Medical Group and the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron serve roughly 800 U.S. Air Force Airmen, as well as RAF Fairford employees.
“As a flight surgeon deployed with the 37th EBS, it’s my responsibility to ensure our aircrew are in a state of optimal health,” said Capt. Christopher Sandoval, flight surgeon. “We make sure they are able to carry out the bomber assurance and deterrence missions here.”
When they’re not working at the expeditionary clinic on base, these medical experts are with aircrew and participating in exercises that increase interoperability between agencies at RAF Fairford.
“All of our aviators are evaluated to make sure they maintain their medical flying capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Fugaro, 131st Medical Group flight surgeon. “When you cross six-plus time zones and operate in a new environment, there may be some issues.”
As part of the Missouri Air National Guard, Fugaro is a Citizen Airman who devotes one weekend a month to drill at Whiteman Air Force Base. At home, he is a full-time intensive care unit doctor. Here, Fugaro is a full-time Airman serving with other Air Force Global Strike Airmen and allies in bomber assurance and deterrence missions.
Working with the RAF Fairford and U.S. fire departments, the medical team organized an exercise involving a mock aircraft mishap, fire and two “injured” volunteers.
“It’s good to intermingle with the British and our firefighters so that we know if something like this were to happen, we will know how to respond and be able to in a timely manner,” said Senior Airmen Lauren Pape, a flight and operational medical technician with the 131st Bomb Wing Medical Group.
After firefighters pulled weighted training dummies, the size and shape of an adult, out of the fuselage and extinguished the flames, medical personnel assisted both U.S. Airmen and RAF Fairford firefighters perform life-saving techniques on two live volunteers.
“We like to practice like we play,” Fugaro said. “In a real-life event, we would all work together. The medical element doesn’t always get to work very closely with the RAF [Fairford] departments. Therefore, familiarization between aerospace medical and the fire department should be something we work towards here.”