Aerospace Medicine: The Wright-Patt Connection

Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 @ 5:30 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 @ 5:30 PM

Whenever the U.S. send troops anywhere in the world, there has to be a way to get those military personnel out of there if they get sick or injured. It is called aeromedical evacuation and training happens right here at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

Marine Corporal Larry Draughn was on routine patrol in Afghanistan when he stepped on an I-E-D and suffered devastating injuries.

"Detonated underneath me and took both my legs off and broke both my hands and ripped off a couple fingers," said Draughn.

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He was flown to the hospital by Aeromedical Evacuation. Recently, photographer Bob Garlock and I got an up close look at an aerovac mission, when we flew with the 445th Airlift Wing. We learned that all seven flight nurses and medics on the mission had been trained at the School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson. They provide constant care during grueling flights.

Second Lieutenant Stacey Stegenga chose this career after a good friend was seriously injured in combat.

"He told me about his long flight home and how well the crew took care of him and that's really why I wanted to join to become a flight nurse," Stegenga said.

The work is exhausting. Our flight from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to the U.S. took ten and a half hours. Crew members can lie down for a break, but they stay right next to the patients.

Stegenga said, "It brings a feeling of safety and comfort to them knowing that they're going home and they'll be seeing their family again, so it's awesome to be a part of that."

Larry Draughn remembers his medical evacuation flight very clearly and he is thankful for the good care that he received.

"The nurse on the flight even said that 'you're going to get to, you're going home to see your family.'" Draughn said. "I'd like to thank 'em and give 'em all a hug for bringing me back."