167th aircrew reunites with wing’s Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron on overseas mission
By Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein, 167AW/PA
/ Published October 06, 2015
MARTINSBURG, W.Va -- It's been nearly five years, but a member of the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron recently found herself teamed up with an aircrew from the 167th Airlift Wing on an overseas mission.
Sept. 28 marked the first time in West Virginia Air National Guard history that an AES crewmember flew on an operational air evacuation mission with a 167th aircrew at the controls of a C-17 Globemaster III, noted Col. Richard Robichaud, one of the aircraft pilots, in an email.
On Oct. 1, 2010, the 167 AES was officially reassigned to the 130th Airlift Wing, Charleston, W.Va. When the 167 AW converted to the C-5 Galaxy, the wing's AES mission could no longer be supported since the large aircraft was not designed for that purpose. As with the 167 AW formerly assigned C-130 aircraft, the C-17 can also transport litters and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations.
"Although tired, we were all proud of our day's work together as a professional West Virginia Air National Guard team. I look forward to jointly flying missions for many years to come," wrote the 167th operations group commander.
Robichaud piloted the aircraft along with Maj. Michael McNiesh and Maj. Adam Erlandson, who commanded the aircraft. Senior Master Sgt. Mark Snyder, Master Sgt. Scott Nye and Tech. Sgt. Justin McDonald rounded out the crew.
Crews with the 167 AW have been piloting C-17 aircraft on aeromedical evacuation missions since mid- August, said Lt. Col. Jon McCullough, director of operations for the 167th Airlift Squadron. In September 2014, the first of eight C-17s assigned to the base arrived with the last touching down here last summer.
The aeromedical evacuation mission of the C-17 crew is to fly patients out of Central Command and back to either Ramstein or stateside, McCullough explained. Aeromedical personnel that participate in the evacuation missions come from squadrons around the country.
Lt. Col. Peter Gross, the wing's assistant chief pilot, said he flew the C-17 just the other week with aeromedical personnel from Colorado and Wyoming.
Robichaud said Tech. Sgt. Christine Cournoyer was the sole West Virginia aeromedical evacuation medical technician that flew with six other Airmen from the Wyoming Air National Guard's AES.
"This mission was important in my mind because Tech. Sgt. Cournoyer was in the 167 AES while they were at Martinsburg and I was their Operations Group Commander for a few years and we flew many missions together as an Ops Group," Robichaud said.
"The C-5 aircraft was not suitable to fly AES missions unless it was an emergency, so we never flew together with the C-5," he said. "The C-17 is arguably the best aeromedical evacuation aircraft flying today for that mission and we will be flying the AE mission with our 167 AES counterparts when the need arises."
Gross said aeromedical evacuation technician crews are determined by patient requirements for any particular mission. He said aeromedical personnel are comprised of a nurse who is the medical crew director, plus an additional nurse and medical technicians.
McCullough said things have come full circle for the AES which once called Martinsburg home.
"We now have a C-17 that supports the aeromedical mission. The same aero meds that flew with us 10 years ago are now flying with us again," he said.