JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger, Air Force surgeon general, paid a visit to the 62nd Medical Squadron here March 7, to gain a better understanding of medical operations at McChord, and to touch base with Team McChord’s medical Airmen.
Ediger was joined by Brig. Gen. Lee Payne, Air Mobility Command surgeon general, and Chief Master Sgt. Edward Pace, Air Force Medical Enlisted Forces chief.
During his visit, Ediger met with 62nd MDS leadership to discuss some of the unique aspects of running a medical squadron on an Army-led joint base. He toured the various clinics in the squadron, and wrapped up his visit with an all-call with 62nd MDS personnel.
During the all-call, Ediger addressed concerns some medical Airmen have raised regarding language in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act regarding extending hours at military treatment facilities and urgent care centers.
“These are all things that we will work our way through,” said Ediger. “It doesn’t mean that we must do that at every MTF; it just says we need to consider doing that at every MTF.”
He added that if it is determined that a particular MTF or urgent care facility will go to extended hours, the 2017 NDAA requires that those facilities receive the appropriate resources to accommodate the change.
“Some people heard that language and thought, ‘We’re going to 14-hour shifts,’ but that is not the case,” Ediger said.
Ediger also discussed the move within Air Force medicine to adapt to the changing landscape in deployed locations. He said that medical taskings are not the same as they were when Airmen were mostly being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Deployed members are now more spread out over a wide expanse of geography covering 31 nations, Ediger said. So now the taskings tend to be for smaller medical teams.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, we had the ability to move casualties quickly to a trauma hub where they would link up with an air-evac mission to Ramstein Air Base [Germany],” Ediger said. “Now it’s a small surgical team operation out of a building of opportunity nowhere near a hospital, sometimes literally 1,000 miles away from the nearest suitable hospital to treat a trauma victim.”
To accommodate those changes, Mobile Forward Air Surgical Teams and Surgical Augmentation Teams are being trained to operate in austere environments.
“These teams are damage-control surgery teams that can stabilize trauma victims and then hold them until aeromedical evacuation can get to them.”
Ediger concluded by reinforcing the importance of the missions of the 62nd MDS and other Air Mobility medical units in supporting combat medical operations.
“The mission in the wing here plays a huge part,” Ediger said. “The Air Mobility mission is really what enables all of the combat capability throughout the Department of Defense.”