C-17 Globemaster III: An aircraft as versatile as AE crews Published Jan. 28, 2019 Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Larger, faster and flexible – a flying ICU. Since joining the U.S. Air Force fleet in 1993, the C-17 Globemaster III has significantly expanded aeromedical evacuation capabilities. In addition to its transport and other numerous mission sets, the C-17 converts to provide aeromedical evacuation to patients in a broad variety of conditions. The aircraft has played critical roles in various contingencies, bringing warfighters to higher levels of care, bringing patients home to the U.S., and aiding in humanitarian efforts to save the lives of those impacted by natural disasters. These photos and stories showcase the C-17’s capabilities, and highlight some important missions that use those capabilities. “The C-17 delivers unrivaled mission and crew support, enabling medics to provide unsurpassed aeromedical evacuation to not only our nation’s wounded warriors, but to transport the critically sick, ill and injured around the globe.” – U.S. Air Force Maj. Catherine Ortega, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Pope Field, North Carolina Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Learn more: C-17 Globemaster III (fact sheet) The versatility of the C-17 lets it accommodate up to 74 patients at a time, both litters and ambulatory patients, meeting many AE mission requirements. Once everything is planned out, AE crewmembers work on converting the large cargo aircraft into a flying intensive care unit to enable medical Airmen to provide en route care. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Photo Details / Download Hi-Res The capabilities of the C-17 can bring a wounded service member back to the U.S. in three days or less, when it used to take 10 days. Built in attachments for central oxygen and electric systems on the C-17 also help improve survival rates for even the most critical patients. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Often, critical care air transport teams are required to help move these patients, augmenting existing AE crewmembers. The CCATT is a three-person, highly specialized medical team consisting of a physician who specializes in an area of critical care or emergency medicine, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Air Force has primarily used the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster to move wounded warriors to higher levels of care. Multiple AE platforms ensure the Air Force can get patients the care they need when they need it. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res “Equipment and procedures are being improved continually to move wounded warriors to progressively more sophisticated levels of care in Afghanistan and ultimately, in the United States,” said Flarity. “[The C-17] is big, bright and spacious with many built-in amenities such as medical-grade oxygen and buttons patients can push to call for assistance.” Learn more: 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight (video) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res The first C-17 squadron, the 17th Airlift Squadron, became operational in January 1995. For more than 25 years, this versatile aircraft has been described as “a do-anything, go-anywhere airframe.” The C-17 allows for transport of critical patients on long flights, contributing to improved battlefield survival rates. For example in 2003, medical Airmen helped a seriously injured Soldier wounded in an ambush in southern Afghanistan. The Solider was shot on his right side, severely damaging his kidneys, with other critical injuries to his diaphragm and lung. After the forward surgical team removed his kidney and operated on his other injuries, he was in the hands of CCATT Airmen who were responsible for ensuring he safely made it to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The cardiopulmonary technician aboard monitored the Soldier’s breathing and drainage from his chest tube. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res “As the medical crew director, my responsibility was overseeing the overall mission of getting the patients moved from Bagram to Ramstein,” said Maj. Jonathan Freeman, a 455th EAES flight nurse deployed from North Carolina Air National Guard’s 156th AES. “I was responsible for coordinating requirements with the C-17 aircrew, ensuring the aircraft was properly configured, and to integrate the AE team with the CCATT team to provide safe medical care for the patients.” The C-17 has a long track record of providing humanitarian support for refugees fleeing areas of conflict and in the wake of natural disasters. These missions showcase the flexibility of the C-17 and its highly capable AE crewmembers. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Once AE crewmembers know the disposition of the patients they will be moving, they can quickly configure a C-17 to accommodate the patients and any life-saving equipment required for the flight. Learn more: Arctic Eagles board C-17 for Hurricane Florence relief efforts (video) Learn more: Aeromedical Evacuation Offload Six Injured Children during Fuego Relief (video) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res “The C-17 is one of the most highly capable aeromedical evacuation aircraft. It brings the ease, comfort and readiness to our AE fight and mission.” – Capt. Lauren Kalani, 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Clinical Quality Element Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Not only did this mission highlight the agility and flexibility of the Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, it also showcased the C-17’s ability to be called on at any moment, and to land despite challenging conditions. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs each transported a critical patient, one to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and one to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. One patient’s life-threatening conditions required AE crewmembers to be augmented by CCATT. “Normal missions fly with three to five medical personnel,” said Staff Sgt. Brek Halgren, the 35th Medical Support Squadron aeromedical evacuation non-commissioned officer in charge. “We brought in a CCATT team from Kadena Air Base, Japan, an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation team from Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and a few other specialties to assist in the patient in critical condition.” Learn more: Misawa's Largest Aeromedical Evacuation (video) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Traditionally, AE and CCAT teams use a system known as “VERIFY” to transport small, infant patients. The crew faced a unique challenge since the child was too big for the existing onboard system and too small for a regular bed. The solution was to secure a “Giraffe” omnibed system, traditionally used in neo-natal ICUs. This was the first time this system was used on the C-17, requiring extensive planning to ensure it would keep the child secure and safe during the 10-hour flight. Photo Details / Download Hi-Res “It can be as quick as ‘tail to tail’ for some of our clinically wounded – where a plane comes in from a (forward operating base), we unload them into an ambulance and move them to another plane on the runway to take off to Germany,” said Maj. Julianna Olson, the 332nd Expeditionary Aeromedical Squadron clinical nurse. The medical Airmen that make up AE and CCAT teams are flexible enough to provide life-saving care on any aircraft. With the C-17's advanced capabilities, these medical Airmen are able to ensure the comfort and safety of even the most critical patients.