Joint training mission puts versatility of C-130J on display

Exercise helps Hurricane Hunters, medical units and cost savings

pochs@sunherald.com Twitter: PatrickOchsJuly 9, 2014 

The storm that hit the Coast on Thursday brought a lightning show, but not much else.

Keesler Air Force Base's Hurricane Hunters didn't see it that way. Flying a joint medical training exercise called Operation Magnolia Medical Enroute Care, the Hunters simulated a much-larger storm crashing into the Coast, causing injured civilians in need of aeromedical evacuation.

The joint mission lasted most of the day as the Hunters were joined by the Mississippi Air National Guard's 172nd Airlift Wing, 183rd Air Evacuation Squadron and 186th Air Refueling Wing, and the Mississippi Army Guard's 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Group in an effort to provide cost-efficient training for each unit by overlapping.

With the C-130J cruising high above Louisiana, the Hunters simulated flying through a nasty storm, releasing dropsondes at one point to collect data. In the rear of the aircraft, the medical units bustled about, working to secure a "wounded" patient who had been loaded into the cargo compartment.

"What we found is that we can actually do our weather training at the same time that we can utilize the back of the plane to do medical training," said Maj. Kait Woods, the aerial reconnaissance weather officer. "It's a win-win for both of us."

Tech. Sgt. Megan Clifton with the 172nd Airlift Wing said the mission, which included the C-130J, a C-17 Globemaster III, a KC-135 Stratotanker and a HH-60G Pave Hawk, proved invaluable to her group from Jackson.

"We were able to set up a C-17 today like we normally do for our training, and then we were able to get on the C-130J, move all of our equipment, personnel and patients safely to the C-130. That's very real-world realistic."

Capt. Chris Deans of the 345th Airlift Squadron said the joint exercise, while providing training that's immediately relevant in Afghanistan and Iraq, isn't just pertinent to war zones.

"God forbid if there's another Katrina, you have these aviation assets that can bring (airmobile evacuation) patients, they can bring medical patients. They demonstrated today all the different levels of getting out and getting your patient," he said. "(They had) medical staff on there to actually do surgeries en route so they can get to a larger facility where they can get the treatment they need.

"That really demonstrates how Mississippi can be ready for another natural disaster."

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