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Aeromedical training benefits refuelers

Master Sgt. Paul McGinnis and Senior Airman Alan Cooper (at right) follow Lt. Col. Keith Kontz while inspecting a KC-135 Stratotanker before departing from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands on March 1. Aeromedical evacuation training missions to St. Croix allow pilots to complete overseas training requirements. Colonel Kontz is a Reserve KC-135 pilot assigned to the 18th Air Refueling Squadron, the flying unit of the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Both Sergeant McGinnis and Airman Cooper are Reservists assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Master Sgt. Paul McGinnis and Senior Airman Alan Cooper (at right) follow Lt. Col. Keith Kontz while inspecting a KC-135 Stratotanker before departing from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands on March 1. Aeromedical evacuation training missions to St. Croix allow pilots to complete overseas training requirements. Colonel Kontz is a Reserve KC-135 pilot assigned to the 18th Air Refueling Squadron, the flying unit of the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Both Sergeant McGinnis and Airman Cooper are Reservists assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Staff Sgt. Kenny Stewart (left) and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Flagg search for a tripped light circuit on a KC-135 Stratotanker. The two Airmen were part of an aeromedical evacuation training team that included members from the 931st Air Refueling Group and the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. Sergeant Stewart is a KC-135 boom operator for the 931st and Sergeant Flagg is an aeromedical evacuation instructor for the 514th. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Staff Sgt. Kenny Stewart (left) and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Flagg search for a tripped light circuit on a KC-135 Stratotanker. The two Airmen were part of an aeromedical evacuation training team that included members from the 931st Air Refueling Group and the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. Sergeant Stewart is a KC-135 boom operator for the 931st and Sergeant Flagg is an aeromedical evacuation instructor for the 514th. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Aeromedical Evacuation Airmen work within the dark confines of a KC-135 Stratotanker flown by members of the 931st Air Refueling Group during a training mission. Air Force officials recently tested a modification that provide more electrical outlets on KC-135s for medical equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Aeromedical Evacuation Airmen work within the dark confines of a KC-135 Stratotanker flown by members of the 931st Air Refueling Group during a training mission. Air Force officials recently tested a modification that provide more electrical outlets on KC-135s for medical equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Reservists from the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., load training equipment on to a KC-135 Stratotanker Friday. Reservists from the 931st Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., flew the KC-135 to McGuire AFB to begin a three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Reservists from the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., load training equipment on to a KC-135 Stratotanker Friday. Reservists from the 931st Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., flew the KC-135 to McGuire AFB to begin a three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Senior Airman Elvin Paulino rushes to fight a simulated in-flight fire in the rear of a KC-135 Stratotanker Sunday. The simulation was part of a three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission using a KC-135 flown by Airmen from the 931st Air Refueling Group. Airman Paulino is assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Senior Airman Elvin Paulino rushes to fight a simulated in-flight fire in the rear of a KC-135 Stratotanker Sunday. The simulation was part of a three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission using a KC-135 flown by Airmen from the 931st Air Refueling Group. Airman Paulino is assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Jason Schaap)

The 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron is an Air Force Reserve unit at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

The 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron is an Air Force Reserve unit at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Staff Sgt. Scott Perkins carries an air hose to a KC-135 Stratotanker at an airfield in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The tanker was being prepared to depart for the end of a three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission supported by the 931st Air Refueling Group. Sergeant Perkins is a crew chief assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Staff Sgt. Scott Perkins carries an air hose to a KC-135 Stratotanker at an airfield in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The tanker was being prepared to depart for the end of a three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission supported by the 931st Air Refueling Group. Sergeant Perkins is a crew chief assigned to the 931st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Senior Airman Genesis Santiago waits for the next emergency during an aeromedical evacuation training flight inside a KC-135 Stratotanker Friday. He and other Airmen from the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., trained on a KC-135 flown by Airmen assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Senior Airman Genesis Santiago waits for the next emergency during an aeromedical evacuation training flight inside a KC-135 Stratotanker Friday. He and other Airmen from the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., trained on a KC-135 flown by Airmen assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Master Sgt. John Kley (left) and Senior Airman Elivin Paulino help load a mock patient aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. A KC-135 crew from the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., picked up medical Reservists assigned to McGuire mid-day Friday at the start of three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission. Sergeant Kley and Airman Paulino are assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap

Master Sgt. John Kley (left) and Senior Airman Elivin Paulino help load a mock patient aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. A KC-135 crew from the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., picked up medical Reservists assigned to McGuire mid-day Friday at the start of three-day aeromedical evacuation training mission. Sergeant Kley and Airman Paulino are assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap

An Airman who became out of control is constrained and questioned by medical personnel during an aeromedical evacuation training exercise Sunday. The constrained Airman acted the part of a violent psychiatric patient so that Reservists assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron could learn how to handle such a situation while in flight aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker. Reservists from the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., flew the KC-135 during the three-day training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)
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An Airman who became out of control is constrained and questioned by medical personnel during an aeromedical evacuation training exercise Sunday. The constrained Airman acted the part of a violent psychiatric patient so that Reservists assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron could learn how to handle such a situation while in flight aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker. Reservists from the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., flew the KC-135 during the three-day training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Staff Sgt. Kenny Stewart adjusts a tie-down strap aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker prior to leaving McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for a three-day aeromedical evacuation training exercise Friday morning. Sergeant Stewart is a KC-135 boom operator assigned to the 18th Air Refueling Squadron, the flying unit of the 931st Air Refueling Group. The 931st is an Air Force Reserve unit at McConnell AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)
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Staff Sgt. Kenny Stewart adjusts a tie-down strap aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker prior to leaving McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for a three-day aeromedical evacuation training exercise Friday morning. Sergeant Stewart is a KC-135 boom operator assigned to the 18th Air Refueling Squadron, the flying unit of the 931st Air Refueling Group. The 931st is an Air Force Reserve unit at McConnell AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

An emergency inflatable device sits near the cargo door of a KC-135 Stratotanker at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., Friday. The KC-135 was bound for an aeromedical evacuation training mission that involved flying through the Bermuda Triangle. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)
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An emergency inflatable device sits near the cargo door of a KC-135 Stratotanker at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., Friday. The KC-135 was bound for an aeromedical evacuation training mission that involved flying through the Bermuda Triangle. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

Airmen assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., practice procedures for a crash landing while flying on a KC-135 Stratotanker Friday. The KC-135 was flown by Airmen from the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The two units teamed up for an aeromedical evacuation training mission from Feb. 27 to March 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)
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Airmen assigned to the 514th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., practice procedures for a crash landing while flying on a KC-135 Stratotanker Friday. The KC-135 was flown by Airmen from the 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The two units teamed up for an aeromedical evacuation training mission from Feb. 27 to March 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap)

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Staff Sgt. Kenny Stewart said let there be light, and there was none. And it wasn't so good.

"I thought the bulb was out," he said, halfway through an aeromedical evacuation training (commonly called "AE" training) mission here.

The day prior, Sergeant Stewart, a boom operator assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group, was up in the air on a KC-135 Stratotanker with 11 AE technicians at the start of the mission. The problem with the light happened when it was needed for a simulated emergency with a patient.

"Someone said the light in the bathroom was out too," Sergeant Stewart said, "then I remembered the circuit breaker."

It was a lesson learned in training that could help save lives when Sergeant Stewart experiences a real AE mission.

"You don't want to learn (AE lessons) by fire," Senior Master Sgt. Ron Nowasell said.

Sergeant Nowasell was one of the Airmen who responded to the simulated emergency when one of the few lights inside the famously dim KC-135 went out. He has been an AE tech for 22 years and is the chief of AE training for the 22nd Air Force at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.

The AE mission would surely "suffer" without the support of KC-135 units like the 931st, he said, to include training for both AE and tanker crews.

"Your guys help our guys," he said to a member of the 931st Saturday, "and we help your guys."

Sergeant Stewart is a good example. He joined the 18th Air Refueling Squadron (the flying unit of the 931st) in January after a tour in the active-duty Air Force that never included flying with an AE crew.

"He had never seen a patient palette before," Sergeant Nowasell said, referring to a device used to load aeromedical evacuees on to aircraft.

As a boom operator, Sergeant Stewart's job usually means guiding the device at the tail of a KC-135 that other aircraft hook up to for refueling.

But during AE missions, KC-135s don't pass fuel and boom operators have to assume many rolls, to include loadmaster, flight attendant, KC-135 tour guide, and sometimes, electrical troubleshooter.

"It's huge," Sergeant Stewart said about the value of his first AE training mission.

The training also offers opportunities for the other members of KC-135 aircrews, the pilots, to learn about AE nuances. Patient conditions can limit what elevation a tanker flies at, for example, and emergencies can cause the need for more speed.

Lt. Col. Keith Kontz was one of three pilots that Sergeant Stewart and a team of AE Reservists mostly from McGuire AFB, N.J., teamed up with for the training mission.

Flying AE crews to and from St. Croix, he said, allows Reserve pilots to complete a requirement that they fly overseas once a year. St. Croix is one of the few places where they can do that without flying all the way to another continent.

Hawaii is the other main destination for AE trainers, Colonel Kontz said, unfolding yet another way the AE mission benefits refuelers. Sandy beaches and tropic breezes tend to help troop moral.


Read More
Click here to read about how the KC-135s benefit the Air Force's aeromedical evacuation mission.

Watch More
Click here to watch (raw) video of the 931st/514th AE training mission.