Small base brings big assets to bear on recovery

BROOKS CITY-BASE, Texas (AFMCNS) -- Small teams of doctors, medical technicians, environmental engineers and epidemiologists from the 311th Human Systems Wing have been immersed since Sept. 2 in hurricane relief operations along the Gulf Coast.

By Tuesday, Air Force medics had treated 5,512 injured and sick and aeromedical personnel had evacuated 2,552 patients to other locations. Many evacuees were transported by the Air Force to San Antonio, home to Brooks City-Base and the 311th, while hundreds more were airlifted to hospitals around the United States where they could get state-of-the-art medical care in modern facilities.

In support of the Air Force's primary focus of saving and sustaining lives and assisting Federal Emergency Management Agency in recovery operations from Hurricane Katrina, Colonel Rick Bachmann and Col. James Neville headed toward the Gulf Coast states Sept. 2.

Colonel Bachmann, commander of the U.S. School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks, deployed to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to take command of the Air Force Medical Forces. In that role, he directs aeromedical missions in the entire gulf region hit by Hurricane Katrina. Flight doctors, nurses and technicians working on the ground and in the air have joined with other medical forces to care for sick and injured civilians.

Public Health specialists from the Air Force Institute for Operational Health conducted environmental and health surveillance and risk analysis to assist in relief efforts. Led by Colonel Neville, the five-person epidemiological rapid response team flew out of Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, on a C-130 transport, loaded with all of their specialized equipment, and landed at the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.

The team's mission is to protect human health and safety of civilian and military personnel and to reduce risks by looking for infectious-disease organisms in water, air and soil. It is expected that as time passes, the health risks in New Orleans will become more and more acute. The team, which is trained to respond to crisis situations all over the world, is prepared to stay on scene as long as it is needed.

Back home at Brooks, others were helping displaced Air Force personnel from Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss., who needed shelter, food and support.

Under the leadership of Command Chief Reggie Williams, the first sergeants have put together packages including groceries, money donations, phone cards and other needed supplies. The sergeants held a steak fry and families are being fed.

More than 50 troops from the 68th Intelligence Squadron spent the night Sept. 2 at KellyUSA cleaning the area and setting up cots for incoming evacuees.

During Labor Day weekend, many flight nurses, aeromedical technicians, critical care transportation instructors, their spouses, and students of class number 050819 from the School of Aerospace Medicine performed more than 350 man-hours of volunteer service to the relief effort.

Volunteers directly participated in the intake, screening and care of more than 300 evacuees requiring medical attention including many with acute and emergent medical conditions. They coordinated with FEMA and leaders of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, or DMAT, to provide military medical assistance from flight surgeons, flight nurses and technicians to a shelter population that swelled to more than 3,000 in less than 48 hours.

The volunteers also assisted FEMA and DMAT leaders with medical command and control, organizing medical operations, establishing a pharmacy to service the population and overall enhancing patient-care capability each day.

School volunteers also participated in planning and execution of cargo operations. Activities included unloading, sorting, packaging and staging more than 1,000 pallets of donated items for the relief effort as well as loading and driving delivery trucks. Their efforts resulted in the timely delivery of more than 500 pallets of materiel including water, clothing, shoes, bedding, personal hygiene items and toys for the evacuees.

Others at Brooks are volunteering their time at Kelly moving furniture, answering phones at the call center, preparing meals and donating goods. The Family Support Center is running full speed to keep up with the needs of families and troops who have come to Brooks City-Base seeking shelter. The FSC is accepting clothing and sanitary items and the Brooks Chapel is collecting items for distribution to needy Air Force personnel and families.