Master Sgt. Mark DeCorte, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron AE technician, cares for a young boy as part of “Operation Unified Response,” the international post earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Sergeant DeCorte is part of a team of five Ramstein Airmen who recently deployed to Florida to participate in evacuating patients as part of the long-term relief effort in the country. (Courtesy Photo)
Five members of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, recently deployed to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, in support of Operation Unified Response. (Left to right) Master Sgt. Mark A. DeCorte, Maj. Pablo A. Snead, Senior Airman Samantha S. Soran, 1st Lt Kristen D. Caldwell and Staff Sgt Andrew J. Jimenez, are evacuating patients as part of the long-term relief effort in the country. (Courtesy Photo)
by Maj. Pablo A. Snead
86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
2/16/2010 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron recently deployed a team to Florida to support "Operation Unified Response," the international post earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
The team, consisting of Flight Nurses Maj. Pablo A. Snead and 1st Lt. Kristen D. Caldwell, and AE technicians Master Sgt. Mark A. DeCorte, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Jimenez and Senior Airman Samantha S. Soran, already completed their second mission evacuating eight sick and injured patients out of Haiti. The Ramstein team is staged at the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., along with other deployed medical aircrews flying the now daily "mission of mercy."
Their patients have been delivered to U.S. hospitals in both Georgia and Florida where they will receive the much needed medical care not available in their devastated country.
"We normally fly the wounded soldiers from the AOR and now we get to help civilians get the healthcare they need," said Airman Soran about the experience.
Though the team has a vast amount of experience caring for wounded, this operation adds its own unique set of challenges, like treating the wide range of young and old patients; dealing with the many stresses of flight -- such as vibration, barometric and thermal changes - which further insult crush and heat injuries; and the engine noise increases difficulty in communication to the already existent language barrier.
"Normally treating war injuries, this has given me a humanitarian perspective on patient care," said Sergeant Jimenez, remarking on the team's traditional mission of providing medical care in-flight on the 86th Airlift Wing's C-130J and C-21A aircraft in the European theater, and on C-17A and KC-135 aircraft evacuating casualties from OEF and OIF theaters.
According to the team members, just in the few days they've been on the ground, the massive trauma caused by the earthquake is still evident as people struggle to survive and live in the ruins of what is left of their country. So on their missions to get patients, the aircrews also delivered loads of bottled water and medical supplies to the many U.S. and international teams assisting the Hatians on the ground.
Once in-flight, the patients became more than their injuries or illnesses as the medical team also delivered compassion. And for many, they deal with the patients very much like they would deal with their own family members.
"As a husband and father of four, I treat my patients as my own family ... seeing just yesterday my own son in the eyes of my patient," said Master Sgt. DeCorte.
The six-year-old Haitian boy he cared for was unique because while the crew treated his injuries from the earthquake, they discovered an underlying illness, and he will now receive some of the best health care in the world.
Lieutenant Caldwell, as well as the rest of the team, shared how honored they are to represent Team Ramstein, "this is a humbling experience and a blessing for me to be a part of the Haitian response effort."