Truly a National Treasure
Air Guardsmen making a difference in the Total Force and the lives of the seriously wounded.
Jan. 19, 2011—To avoid overwhelming the capacity of hospitals in theater, the Air Force invented the Critical Care Air Transport Team. A CCATT transports the critically injured aboard military transports or tanker aircraft to major medical facilities in Europe or back in the United States.
Before CCATT, field medical staff had to accompany patients en route, when they were moved.
"The current conflicts have really shown the benefits of CCATT," said Lt. Col. Raymond Fang, director of trauma at the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
Comprised of three trauma specialists, a CCATT enables forward hospitals to perform "damage control surgery" quickly "to stop bleeding, prevent contamination, and get airway control of a patient," explained Fang. The team then helps bring the patient "to where there's more capability and resources," he continued.
Demand in Afghanistan, however has taken its toll. CCATT is a "low-density, high-demand capability and . . . the active duty side is getting heavily stressed continually manning all these positions," said Fang.
To meet requirements, USAF has called on the Air National Guard, unearthing an unexpected goldmine in the process. With a short certification process, trauma physicians and specialists, many of whom filled non-medical roles in the Guard, quickly expanded the specialized pool for CCATT, at little to no additional cost.
What's more, Guardsmen bring a high level of experience. With a shrinking number of intensive care units in military hospitals, "there's not a wealth of critical care experience in the active duty . . . and the Guard people, that's what they do in their everyday job," noted Fang. He added, "They bring a lot of enthusiasm and a huge amount of personal expertise and experience to the mission."
In addition to their willingness and talent, the Air Guard is very efficient. "The day before I left, the military wasn't paying me to be doing anything," quipped Brig. Gen. John Owen, Air Guard physician and organizer of ANG's CCATT mission.
Leveraging a force of civilian trauma doctors, critical care nurses, and respiratory therapists who bring their "day-to-day experience" to the job, allows the Guard to bring a level of care "as high or higher" than active duty, Owen said.
"We're able to bring an incredibly qualified group of people forward to answer the nation's call to take care of our wounded soldiers," said Owen.
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