Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

New Millennium, New Mind-Set: The Air Force Medical Service in the Air Expeditionary Era

Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

New Millennium, New Mind-Set: The Air Force Medical Service in the Air Expeditionary Era

Article excerpt

The Air Force Medical Service in the Air Expeditionary Era

Editorial Abstract: Diverse threats to our nation's security, both at home and abroad, chat lenge the Air Force's medical personnel to develop innovative solutions to provide medical support for a wide range of military operations. By using highly portable medical teams and modularizing deployable assets, commanders can tailor medical response to fit the unique features of each situation. Partnering with sister-service and coalition medical services achieves synergistic effectiveness.

AS COLD WAR scenarios fade from memory and dozens of small-scale contingencies around the world challenge deployed military medics, military medical services are rethinking their readiness philosophies to fit a new paradigm. Each service must prepare for a spectrum of operations much broader than the traditional wartime role. What are the diverse missions faced by the military medics who must support these operations? What are the readiness roles in these uncertain times?

The National Military Strategy of the United States, Joint Vision 2020, and Air Force Vision 2020 all point to continued global, proactive engagement by Air Force people. Because this cannot happen without effective medical support, the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) is transforming itself in order to develop the necessary expeditionary culture.

My "vision" for the AFMS emphasizes that Air Force medical personnel must be able to support the Air Force mission throughout the full continuum of military operations in which airpower may be employed, as described in Air Force Doctrine Document 2, Organization and Employment of Aerospace Power, 17 February 2000. To do this, medics must be able to provide support across three broad categories of deployment scenarios: humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA), medical response to disasters, and support of traditional wartime operations. These scenarios also directly support Air Force Vision 2020. For example, HCA missions demonstrate vigilance by promoting democracy, peaceful relationships (military-to-military and military-to-civilian), and economic vitality-a sort of "preventive medicine" against war. We demonstrate reach by responding promptly and appropriately to disasters when invited by an allied country and when called upon to augment disaster response by civil authorities at home. Both HCA and disaster-response missions create opportunities for our medical personnel to gain valuable experience during deployments that carry over to support wartime operations. Thus, they support power, our traditional readiness mission.

Medics face diverse and frightening challenges as our military increases its participation in nontraditional roles. Potential scenarios could involve weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters, and complex technological/ political/natural crises. A regional or worldwide epidemic, such as the outbreak of influenza in 1918, could have enormous impact on all medical personnel. None of us need to be reminded of the recent tragic consequences of terrorism that put medical response to a severe test. Controlling such events can avert worldwide economic catastrophe and subsequent potential conflict.

Since each situation is unique, lessons learned from previous disasters will not solve all the problems of a new crisis. But one can learn general lessons and apply them to the development of generic plans for responding to different types of disasters. On the one hand, earthquakes, for example, can result in major surgical casualties, particularly in the first three days after the event. The need for intensive care and renal dialysis may overwhelm the civilian medical system's capability. On the other hand, a flood or hurricane may cause few surgical casualties but increase demand for emergency-room and publichealth services as well as ongoing basic health-care needs, such as refilling prescriptions.

This scenario, combined with the potential loss of medical infrastructure, may overwhelm the local civilian medical system, as recently demonstrated when floods struck Houston, Texas, during Tropical Storm Allison. …

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