137 AES hosts multiple units, aircraft in Guard-wide training event

WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. --

More than 160 Airmen from eight of the Air National Guard’s nine aeromedical evacuation squadrons participated in a Guard-wide training event hosted by the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here, April 6-9. 

The event, known as the Multiple Aircraft Training Opportunity Program, or MATOP, allows the units to work together and share techniques while also working across all the airframes that aeromedical Airmen frequently come into contact with.

“The purpose of MATOP is to bring the aeromedical squadrons together to accomplish integrated training with three primary aircraft – the C-130 Hercules, KC-135 Stratotanker and C-17 Globemaster III – on the ground and in flight,” said Maj. Casey Patton, 137 AES operations officer and primary MATOP planner. “It gives us an opportunity to apply the event’s takeaways, exchange knowledge, and unify and create a single aeromedical field. This way, we’re able to think the same way, and do the same things.”

Aeromedical squadrons are typically Guard or Reserve units that care for patients during transport between military installations, usually while on a C-130, KC-135 or a C-17. All Airmen are required to accomplish annual training on each of these aircraft.

“Bringing all of the aircraft here and bringing all of the units here allows them to see the aircraft, train on the aircraft, configure, load, compete and run scenarios on the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Yvonne Payne, 137 AES flight medical technician and MATOP planner. “Throughout the year, we’re required so many medical scenarios, and flying helps us fulfill those requirements, even if it’s just finding the fire extinguisher on a specific airframe. Then, when we deploy, we know it already.”

During the event, Airmen loaded and secured patients and equipment before each flight, adapting to the different setups of each aircraft. During flight, Airmen had to successfully work their way through a number of scenarios, including patient treatment, in-flight fires or rapid decompression, medical emergencies and even equipment malfunctions.

On the ground, the event required Airmen in communications, radio, logistics, administration and biomedical fields to remain on their toes while in a simulated deployed environment.

“As a logistics Airmen, there aren’t many opportunities for us to see what our role in a deployment location would be like,” said first-time MATOP participant Senior Airman Jennifer Cleveland, a medical logistics Airman from the 142nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Delaware Air National Guard. “I think it’s really important that we’re exposed to that environment, and we’re working side-by-side with [medical] logistics Airmen from other units.”

Also on the ground, the Airmen’s medical knowledge and abilities were tested in timed scavenger hunts, relays and obstacle courses that combined teamwork with quick thinking.

“We don’t deploy as a whole unit anymore. Instead, we’re blended with other crews, other states, and other active or reserve units,” said Payne. “This allows us to work with and become familiar with the other faces in aeromedical evacuation before we deploy with them. It also helps us build comradery and meet our counterparts in the field.”

In attendance were also the 109 AES, Minnesota Air National Guard; the 142 AES, Delaware ANG; 146 AES, California ANG; 156 AES, North Carolina ANG; 167 AES, West Virginia ANG; 183 AES, Mississippi ANG; and 187 AES, Wyoming ANG.

The event also included on and off base collaboration such as weather, communications and airfield management Airmen as well as a local ambulance.

This is the third MATOP training event, last year being the second, and the first was in 2012. After the installation of a static C-130 trainer at WRANGB last year, the 137 AES has made MATOP an annual priority.

“We’d like to continue with this type of training, but also expand it to incorporate additional training scenarios to make it more complex,” said Patton. “This year, we built on last year’s event to enhance the experience of our ground training and add more ground personnel. We doubled the amount of training this year, and next year we hope to add even more.”