KC-46 expands PACAF aeromedical evacuation mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tarelle Walker

The 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron recently expanded their mission capabilities by hosting a training event to integrate the use of a KC-46 Pegasus aircraft.

The KC-46 is a relatively new aircraft designed to fill multiple roles such as refueling, transporting fuel for an extended range, moving cargo and aeromedical evacuation. Lt. Col. Janette Williford, Aeromedical Evacuation Control Team chief, explained why the addition of this aircraft is significant to her team’s mission.

“This particular mission is unique because it's the first KC-46 dedicated to solely execute Aeromedical Evacuation in the Pacific," Williford said. “Utilizing this particular airframe opens up capabilities for patient evacuation, especially in a limited resource area of responsibility.”

The training was coordinated by Jonathan Portis, 613th Air Operations Center Evacuation Control Team Theater Aeromedical Evacuation System manager, who expressed his excitement at expanding the unit’s capabilities and improving readiness.

“It gives us an additional aircraft type to task. The 613th Air Mobility Division normally tasks two primary types of aircraft for long range patient movement, the C-17 and KC-135, but now, with the KC-46 we have another option,” said Portis.

AE personnel use training opportunities like this one to identify and compare differences between the setup on new and old platforms, giving them time to correct flaws or errors ahead of real world missions.

“The KC-46 requires special considerations when loading compared to a C-17,” Portis explained. “Loading and off loading equipment may require two K-loaders. It is very similar in performance to a KC-135 [which is a] very AE friendly aircraft [because of its] lighting and environment controls.”

Crew members on AE teams are constantly presented with urgent challenges and must possess certain qualities in order to perform well under pressure. It is one of the few jobs where the actions and words of the team can quite literally mean life or death for others.

“AE is exceptionally unique because we must be competent and capable of executing an aeromedical mission on any opportune aircraft in a time sensitive matter,” Williford shared. “Additionally, every aircraft is unique and you must be agile, flexible, as well as medically and operationally knowledgeable in order to be successful.”

Williford described her feelings about the team’s performance and stressed the importance of team cohesion between AE and other organizations as they continue training and executing missions like this one.

“I am proud of every single one of my team members, not only because they work hard but they always go above and beyond what is asked of them,” Williford said. “We have such a tight working relationship with our team and with our partners, that if anyone has a question, we are always supporting each other and doing anything we can to ensure we can evacuate our patients and deliver them to the next echelon of care.”