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130th AW members get the scoop on Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron

Tech. Sgt. Mary Ann Smith, Master Sgt. Peppy Smith, Tech. Sgt. Tara Bryant, and Airman First Class Jack Messner, all members of  the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, prepare to move a dummy, posing as a car crash victim, to a stretcher during a training exercise at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg West Virginia, September 12, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo  by Master Sgt Sean Brennan)

Tech. Sgt. Mary Ann Smith, Master Sgt. Peppy Smith, Tech. Sgt. Tara Bryant, and Airman First Class Jack Messner, all members of the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, prepare to move a dummy, posing as a car crash victim, to a stretcher during a training exercise at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg West Virginia, September 12, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Sean Brennan)

Maj. Marcia Hendrickson and Staff Sgt. Calle Harmon, 167th Aeromedical Squadron, Martinsburg, W.Va., perform in-flight training on a medical dummy while aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft, Key West, Fla., Dec. 14. 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sean M. Brennan)

Maj. Marcia Hendrickson and Staff Sgt. Calle Harmon, 167th Aeromedical Squadron, Martinsburg, W.Va., perform in-flight training on a medical dummy while aboard a C-130 Hercules aircraft, Key West, Fla., Dec. 14. 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sean M. Brennan)

Members of the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron load a simulated patient aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk during a local training exercise, Martinsburg, W.Va., Aug. 2, 2008. Aeromedical members train loading and off-loading patients in various airframes and environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Emily A. Beightol-Deyerle)

Members of the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron load a simulated patient aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk during a local training exercise, Martinsburg, W.Va., Aug. 2, 2008. Aeromedical members train loading and off-loading patients in various airframes and environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Emily A. Beightol-Deyerle)

Charleston, W.Va. -- Members of the 130th Airlift Wing attended an informational briefing about positions with the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, during the Jan. UTA in the dining facility.

Col. John M. Ryan, Jr., commander of the 130th Operations Group, 130th AW, said, "We welcome the aeromed squadron into this wing and under my group."

The 167th AES came under Col. Ryan's command, Oct. 1, 2010; however, the squadron is not slated to move from Martinsburg to Charleston until the new hangars at the 130th AW are finished.

"My fliers are now in support of the AES, as well as all the other training and boots-on-the-ground guys that we support," said Col. Ryan.

"Right now the projected move for aeromed to be physically located in Charleston, is February of next year," said Master Sgt. Greg L. White, recruiting and retention superintendent at the West Virginia Air National Guard Headquarters.

He told members that if they transferred to jobs in AES they would have to travel five hours north to Martinsburg for drill for at least a year.

Both Col. Ryan and Master Sgt. White emphasized that AES works for operations, which means a higher ops tempo than a similar medical support position.

"They're not part of the 130th Medical Group--that's the first distinction you need to be aware of," said Master Sgt. White.

Col. Ryan said that 130th AW members who were interested in AES might need to have a mindset change if they were accustomed to working a support-only position.

"It's a lot more than one weekend a month, two weeks a year," said Master Sgt. White.

"If it's your calling to take care of people, and to have a little excitement and travel in your life, this is the job for you," said Col. Ryan.

"If it's not [your calling], or if you don't like to travel, or you don't like to have that little bit of danger in your life, this is not the job for you," he said.

Master Sgt. Charlotte J. Ortiz, recruiting office supervisor with the 130th Recruiting Office, 130th Force Support Squadron, 130th AW, said that if members wanted to transfer to AES they first had to see Master Sgt. Victor L. Perry, the retention office manager with the 130th FSS.

"The first thing he will do is look at your ASVAB scores. You have to qualify with scores and a physical," said Master Sgt. Ortiz.

"If you go into any of these flying aeromed positions, you do have to take a flying class physical and then your vision requirements would be determined," she said.

Some of the positions in AES are flight nurse, flight medic, medical admin., ground radio, medical supply, and biomedical equipment repair.

"So there are career choices if you are looking to switch," said Master Sgt. White.

"We're looking forward to getting some 130th people involved in the aeromed squadron," said Col. Ryan.

Master Sgt. White said that members needed to be clear that the medical admin.job in AES is different from the medical group in the clinic.

Medical admin. in aeromed deploys more, said Master Sgt. White.

To help members understand the requirements for flying positions, two members of the 167th AES flew down from Martinsburg, to speak at the briefing--Capt. Jodi M. Pritchard, a flight nurse, and Staff Sgt. Troy A. Baker, a flight medic.

"Training takes about a year and a half, to two years," said Capt. Pritchard.

She said, "You have to dedicate the time it takes to do this job initially. You've got to come out and you've got to fly. You have to maintain two hours a month in order to maintain your flight pay, and you have to fly every 90 days just to stay current."

Capt. Pritchard said, "I'm not trying to talk you out of it; I'm just trying to bring in reality, because that's what it's all about.

She said, "You're going to be busy and you're going to deploy."

"Every 15 months, we go on what's called "a bucket" for six months," said Capt. Pritchard. She said that a lot of crewmembers volunteer for the long deployments because it is what they love to do.

"The AES is a great mission," said Col. Ryan.

He said, "I've personally flown many air evacs out of Iraq and Aghanistan. It's a worthy cause."

"For the first two to three years, I hated aeromed," said Staff Sgt. Baker.

He said, "I thought flying was such a hassle, and coming in for training was very tedious."

Staff Sgt. Baker said that due to the long training cycle initially, he didn't get to travel.

He said, "Then I deployed to Iraq and I was flight crew at Balad, and I've loved it ever since."

Being a member of AES is different from a traditional aircrew position--you're not tied to one unit or one aircraft.

Staff Sgt. Baker said, "We're part of ops, but we're medical, so it's hard for us to paint a picture for you guys because we don't work with anybody except maybe loadmasters, or if you're medical and deployed, in a clinic."

"It's pretty high profile," said Capt. Pritchard.

"You're going to be in the news media," she said.

Capt. Pritchard and Staff Sgt. Baker recommended that anyone interested in transferring to AES view a news video produced by CNN to see an aeromed squadron in action. The video shows the flight nurses and medics doing their job.

"We've been just about everywhere you can imagine," said Capt. Pritchard.

Master Sgt. White said that those members seriously considering transferring to AES need to talk it over with loved ones first.

"You're going to be gone a lot more than you are now, so make sure everyone is happy with your decision," he said.

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