November 6th, 2008 09:30 EST
A combined U.S.,Australian Team Evacuated an Australian Civilian in Antarctica
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFNS) -- A combined U.S. and Australian team successfully evacuated an Australian civilian in Antarctica to a hospital in Hobart, Australia, Nov. 5.
The seriously injured patient was part of an Australian Antarctic Division contingent conducting scientific research at Davis Station, Antarctica. He is currently in stable condition, receiving medical care in Hobart for multiple fractures caused by an all-terrain vehicle accident.
A medical team flew 1,500 miles from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to Davis Station, Nov. 3, aboard an LC-130 Hercules assigned to the 13th Air Expeditionary Group. The ski-equipped aircraft landed on an improvised runway prepared by Davis Station personnel earlier in the week.
The medical team, along with aircrew members and an aircraft maintenance team, spent the night at Davis Station in order to rest, refuel the aircraft and prepare the patient before beginning the 10-hour flight to Hobart Nov. 4.
The mission was flown as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which is commanded by U.S. Pacific Command`s Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica. Headquartered at Hickam AFB and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA`s mission is to provide air- and sealift support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program.
The medical team consisted of an Australian doctor and nurse; a joint medical attendant transport team composed of three Army medical personnel from Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii; and three Air Force medical personnel forward-deployed to McMurdo.
Capt. Greg Richert, the onboard Air Force flight surgeon, said the successful medical movement symbolized two things for him.
"One is the very effective medical movement capability we have here in the Pacific region, and the other is the strong partnership between the National Science Foundation, the Australian Antarctic Division and Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica," Captain Richert said.
The captain, who is forward-deployed from 13th Air Force to McMurdo Station as the JTF SFA flight surgeon, said it was especially gratifying to use the team`s medical movement capability to help the Australians in Antarctica.
"The United States and Australia have long enjoyed a strong bond, and it was really evident in how our combined team was able to help this patient in his time of need," Captain Richert said.
Dr. Tony Press, director of the Australian Antarctic Division, said he was grateful for the support the United States provided.
"It`s a tribute to our excellent relationship with the U.S. Antarctic Program and a fantastic example of the collaboration that typifies Antarctic operations," Doctor Press said.
The movement was the first major mission for the LC-130 in the current Operation Deep Freeze season. The New York Air National Guard`s 109th Airlift Wing, based out of Stratton Air National Guard Base, N.Y., operates the aircraft, which can land on snow or ice surfaces throughout Antarctica thanks to its ski-equipped landing gear. The plane also has wheels for landing on prepared hard surfaces.