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10th EAEF: A flight that saves lives

Staff Sgt. Jarrett Lyle, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight technician, and Senior Master Sgt. Theresa Sheheen, 10th EAEF superintendent, review a checklist at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. Before departing on a mission, Airmen from the 10th EAEF must read through multiple checklists to ensure supplies, equipment, and safety are accounted for. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Staff Sgt. Jarrett Lyle, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight technician, and Senior Master Sgt. Theresa Sheheen, 10th EAEF superintendent, review a checklist at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. Before departing on a mission, Airmen from the 10th EAEF must read through multiple checklists to ensure supplies, equipment, and safety are accounted for. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Senior Master Sgt. Theresa Sheheen, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight superintendent, wears a flight patch at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. Members of the 10th EAEF provide medical care to injured service members while transporting them to larger medical facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Senior Master Sgt. Theresa Sheheen, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight superintendent, wears a flight patch at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. Members of the 10th EAEF provide medical care to injured service members while transporting them to larger medical facilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Carts hold litters and supplies at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. Each team from the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight has an individual set of equipment, to include medical supplies and monitors, they must check and maintain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Carts hold litters and supplies at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. Each team from the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight has an individual set of equipment, to include medical supplies and monitors, they must check and maintain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Senior Airman Chris Dale and Tech. Sgt. Erin Morit, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight technicians, load and arrange equipment onto a C-17A Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. After being alerted for a mission, members of the 10th EAEF have just hours to report, check equipment, load the plane and set-up for the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

Senior Airman Chris Dale and Tech. Sgt. Erin Morit, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight technicians, load and arrange equipment onto a C-17A Globemaster III at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 9, 2016. After being alerted for a mission, members of the 10th EAEF have just hours to report, check equipment, load the plane and set-up for the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

In the frigid and dim cargo hold of a C-17 Globemaster III, Airmen strive to save the lives of injured service members while being tormented by the deafening rumble of four engines. These Airmen are the patients’ best option for medical care and transportation to a hospital.

The 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, under the 13th Operations Support Squadron, transports injured service members via aircraft from deployed locations to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, or other accommodating hospitals, while providing medical support.

“We could find ourselves in the back of C-130, KC-135, C-17, and possibly even C-21A,” said Senior Master Sgt. Theresa Sheheen, 13th EOSS flight superintendent. “The back of a plane isn’t the most ideal medical facility, but that’s what makes the job interesting.”

The most ‘un-hospital-like places’ are where members of the 10th EAEF set up their work stations and execute their duties to ensure the recovery, and at times survival, of patients within their area of responsibility. Upon being alerted, the team has just a few hours to be on the plane and ready to go.

Within that time-frame, Airmen going on the mission must pack a 72-hour bag, attend an intelligence brief, attend a crew brief, check all their equipment and supplies before loading the aircraft, load the aircraft, check equipment and supplies again and perform other ancillary tasks.

“There are checklists we follow to ensure that everything is properly checked, prepared and completed for the mission,” said Sheheen. “The checklists provide step by step instructions for just about everything we do.”

Even though a lot of time and dedication go into preparedness, not everything can always be accounted for.

“The most stressful thing about our job is the unknown,” said (Dr.) Maj. Jason Merrell, 13th EOSS critical care air transportation team physician. “There may be a mission where we don’t get notification of a patient’s condition, or they may take a turn for the worse. We have to prepare for scenarios we might not expect and stay one step ahead.”

Despite the challenges that AE and CCATTs go through, the job is very rewarding to those who do it.

“We save lives and get people back to good health,” said Merrell. “It’s a great feeling to know that we contribute to that.”