The US Air Force unit 304th Expeditionary Air Squadron (EAS) has detailed a rescue that it performed at the end of August, which saw it work closely with New Zealand authorities to respond to a medical emergency at National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, located in Antarctica.
After completing its final flight of the Southern Hemisphere winter Antarctic season, the 304th Expeditionary Air Squadron received a call-out from the Station about a medical emergency. With the weather rapidly deteriorating, the 304th EAS redirected the final mission, using the local Christchurch New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to save time.
Personnel were ready to leave the base when the call came in but had to switch from a ‘go home’ mission to a medevac mission in order to respond. During the flight to the Station, US aircrew orientated the New Zealand Life Fleet medical team to the 304th EAS’ C-17 Globemaster III.
Upon landing, the weather turned further. “Weather was favourable for the arrival except temperatures at the time of landing were much colder than previously forecasted,” said Lt Col Trace Dotson, 304th EAS Commander.
The teams had to work in conditions of -18 degrees centigrade (-65.2 Fahrenheit) in order to evacuate one critically ill patient and another needing care.
“There was a lot of co-ordination with the New Zealand Life Fleet medical personnel as we usually work with Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation teams,” said Tech. Sgt Seth Lewis, 7th Airlift Squadron Loadmaster. “The increased co-ordination helped us perform the medevac safely. It was so cold that we weren’t able to open up the back of the aircraft, so the patients were loaded through the crew door, which is located on the front left side of the aircraft.”
The patients were successfully brought back to Christchurch, New Zealand within 24 hours of the service receiving the call for help.
“This mission was outside normal operations since it was an emergency situation,” said Lt Col Bruce Cohn, 97th Airlift Squadron Pilot. “The rapidness of how we changed gear to respond really showed the teamwork of all who were involved.”