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Medical Exercise in Romania Release date 19.10.2018
A humanitarian crisis on an international scale occurs in a foreign country and IAF SAR (Search-and-rescue) Unit 669 medical crews are sent to retrieve Israeli casualties. This week, service members from the IAF and the IDF Medical Corps participated in an EU aerial medical exercise in Romania
Illy Pe'ery

"The casualties enter the aircraft one by one. Each casualty is loaded onto an intensive care bed and connected to systems and monitors. The loadmasters sit alongside the doctors and begin preparing for the flight", described Lt. Col. Dr. A', Head of the Operations and Aerial Medicine Branch. "The takeoff is short. We hold tight, keep our eyes on the monitors and make sure that everything is alright with the casualties. The systems at our disposal are identical to those at an actual hospital. As SAR (Search-and-rescue) Unit 669 operators we're used to working in much harder conditions, but the 'Karnaf' (Hercules C-130H) has a lot of room, which allows you to maintain contact with your patient".


Photography: Mike Yudin

This week, an IDF medical delegation flew to Romania to participate in an EU exercise simulating a wide-scale humanitarian crisis, similar to the deadly earthquakes which occurred in Haiti in 2010 and in Nepal in 2016. All participants were faced with medevac scenarios, with the Israeli crews simulating a scenario where medical crews are deployed in order to retrieve Israeli casualties. The exercise was led by the 131st ("Knights of the Yellow Bird") Squadron, which operates the "Karnaf" aircraft alongside SAR Unit 669.

"SAR Unit 669 has a medical company made up of reserve service members who are the best doctors in Israel, providing top-tier medical attention during both routine and emergency", said Lt. Col. A'. "The unit has the ability to perform long-range evacuations. The IAF's transport aircraft are transformed into aerial hospitals with intensive care beds and operation rooms. An exercise of this sort drills every link in the chain of evacuation".


Photography: IDF Spokesperson

"Keeping the casualties alive"
There is a pre-written set of operations for situations in which Israel will be required to send a medical crew overseas: the SAR Unit 669 medical branch's reserve service members will be recruited, the unit's installation team will begin installing the required posts in the aircraft, and the transport squadrons' loadmasters will secure the posts and ensure the smooth operation of the aerial hospital. Before the delegation takes off, an advance team made up of a senior doctor and a representative from the Medical Corps will be sent to the area to estimate the situation and plan the evacuation.

 
Photography: Mike Yudin

"One of our main challenges in overseas evacuation is keeping the casualties alive throughout the flight", emphasized Lt. Col. A'. "There were times when we flew several casualties in unstable conditions and varying degrees of severity. When drilling a scenario of this sort, we send doctors from the unit to act as overseers alongside the medical crew – they update the doctor regarding the patient's status throughout the flight".

"We use advanced manikins and alter their basic vitals during the flight so we can drill situations with a varying medical status according to probable real-time scenarios", elaborated Lt. Col. A'. "We have the ability to simulate a long evacuation and let them examine the equipment installed in the aircraft".

 
Photography: IDF Spokesperson

Equipment is critical in the field of aerial evacuations. The casualties' critical state requires a workplace simulating hospitals as well as possible. This is where the 131st Squadron's loadmasters come in.

"We command over the cargo hold – we divide the weight, as well as take care of overloads and the passengers' safety. The aircraft is a military aircraft, which makes the workplace and its stability a significant challenge for the medical crews. Our job is to support them", elaborated Maj. G', Commander of the 131st Squadron's Loadmaster Department. "During long flights, you may find yourself caring for dozens of aircrew members and casualties spread across the cargo hold, all while routinely maintaining potential malfunctions in the aircraft and its systems".

 
Photography: Mike Yudin

International Relations
"This is the longest flight in which we drilled managing and operating an aerial medical care scenario. We usually drill such scenarios on the ground or in Israel's territory – however, such exercises cannot be compared to long, international exercises", said Maj. G'. "We work much better together after we drill complex scenarios of this sort. There is no other way to see how this thing works in real-time besides this exercise".

 
Photography: IDF Spokesperson

Beyond awarding the crews with practical tools, the exercise also strengthens Israel's international relations. "The field hospital established by the IDF and the Medical Corps is considered to be of the highest level in the world. It was approved by the World Health Organization a year ago and is always prepared to take off to disaster areas. IAF doctors from SAR Unit 669 can ensure that any Israeli citizen who is injured outside of the country's borders will be brought back safely", said Lt. Col. A'. Maj. G' concluded: "It is a privilege to be a part of this mission, and it's clear that all participants feel the vocation in the life-saving activity of bringing citizens back to Israel".