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Aerial Medicine in “Blue-Flag” 2017 Release date 15.11.2017
Last week, IAF medical crews met with medical crews from the international air forces currently participating in the “Blue-Flag” 2017 training exercise
Hadas Levav

These are the final days of “Blue-Flag” 2017, the largest IAF aerial training exercise to date, and credit is due to those who maintain the health of over a thousand participants. Last week, medical crews from the United States, German, French Italian and Israeli air forces all met.

“This is the first time such an amount of forces has arrived, which is of course escorted by a fitting medical force”, explained Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar, Head of the Aerial Medicine Branch. “We have been cooperating with American medical crews for years and have begun cooperation with German crews quite recently, but this is the first time we cooperated with crews from Italy and France”.

“The international medical crews were interested in the IAF’s medical division, and the idea of a mutual meeting came up. The challenges that the medical crews face are similar – providing medical care for aircrew members and dealing with airborne SAR missions. There aren’t many people in Israel that can share their insights on these matters with us, so it was clear to us that the meeting would be helpful for all sides”.

Photo Courtesy of Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar

Practical Experience
The experience accumulated by the IAF in airborne SAR (Search-and rescue) missions came up in early stages of the meeting: “We have a great deal of practical knowledge from the ‘Second Lebanon’ War and from Operations ‘Protective Edge’ and ‘Cast Lead’. The international air force also have operational experience, they treat casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, but their numbers are significantly lower and spread out over a longer period”.

Even though airborne SAR missions are similar, the mode of force operation differs from air force to air force. "In the French, German and US air forces there are helicopters designated for the extraction and treatment of casualties", explained Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar. "In the IAF it isn’t the helicopters' sole task. An IAF helicopter can take off for a transportation mission a very short time after performing a SAR mission”. SAR mission crews differ between air forces as well: the participating air forces' medical crews are smaller, consisting of a doctor and a nurse, and most of the missions are performed without an extraction force. "Most airborne SAR missions they perform do not include an extraction force. They deal with transporting casualties from point A to point B, and the force is only called up when necessary", elaborated Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar. "The IAF has a SAR Unit 669 crew onboard for every extraction mission".

Archive Photo

International Ideas
Additional issues regarding training and fitness maintenance were discussed. "In France, the crews are certified for operation on specific helicopters", clarified Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar. "A doctor who is certified for operation on a certain helicopter cannot be on ready-alert for a different platform. These are differences we will examine in our future cooperation to see if they should be integrated".

An additional issue that came up in the discussion was the treatment of RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) operators. "Treatment of the operators is both physiological and psychological. The physiological facet relates to physical problems resulting from many hours of sitting in front of a screen, while the psychological facet relates to the conscious transition from the relatively comfortable operational environment to the scene of the event". The crews discussed the operators' shifts and work format. "For example, we learned that in the United States, there is a standard format for operator shifts", explained Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar. "Unlike our situation, where the shifts change and certain operators may perform six weeks of day shifts, six weeks of night shifts and then six weeks of evening shifts. This format influences their alertness and their psychological state".

Lt. Col. Dr. Shachar concluded: "We realized that all crews had common interests as well as the same medical challenges. There are different ways to handle these challenges, but the foundations of operational, aerial medicine are the same".