JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —Airmen from the 628th and 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadrons from Joint Base Charleston and Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, along with medical researchers from universities in Indiana and Nebraska, conducted Transportation Isolation System training July 18, on a flight from JB Charleston to Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
The goal of the collaborative training was to implement and evaluate procedures for transporting highly infectious patients from one location to another via aeromedical evacuation.
Engineered and implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an enclosure the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with highly contagious diseases.
“For the last three months we have been working with multiple bases to improve the process of transporting highly infectious patients,” said John Lowe, University of Nebraska Medical Research Center researcher. “The University of Nebraska is really committed to the global health community. This collaboration with the Air Force allows the medical community to observe and improve its capabilities.”
For the first time, the training utilized two TIS pods on one C-17 Globemaster III. One system was used to quarantine a simulated highly infectious patient, while the other was used for monitoring and observation of two additional simulated patients who had been exposed to the infectious patient.
“The University of Nebraska is considered to be the leading experts of biological contamination in the United States.” said Maj. Heather Cohen, Air Mobility Command deputy chief of medical modernization. “An exercise like this provides extremely important readiness training to our aeromedical Airmen. The Airmen were able to familiarize themselves with the various procedures and personal protective equipment required for this type of mission.”
Once the team landed at Offut AFB, the patients were transferred into the care of Omaha safety officials. In a real-world scenario, patients would be transferred to one of 10 facilities in the U.S. equipped to house highly infectious patients, such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“The most important thing, when it comes to the TIS, is making sure the patients and crew members are transported as safely as possible,” said Master Sgt. Latresia Pugh, AMC aeromedical evacuation technician. “We’ve made tremendous strides in improving the plans and procedures through our collaboration with various agencies.”
Continuous innovation with the TIS and training involved with its use helps provide the most effective and safest form of transportation for patients and their medical professionals.
“We don’t know what the bug of the future might be,” said Cohen. “This is the next step in preparing for as many scenarios as possible.”