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A patient is offloaded from a C-130J with the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, last month. C-130J aircraft are outfitted with the Dynamic Retasking Capability, managed at Hanscom AFB, Mass., which provides the ability for the aircraft to be directed to an alternate location with up-to-date information. Having that capability recently assisted an EAS crew with saving an Airman's life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter)
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Hanscom-managed program helps save Airman's life

Posted 5/13/2013   Updated 5/14/2013 Email story   Print story


by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

5/13/2013 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- A program managed here that helps gets supplies safely to warfighters recently was used in Afghanistan to help save an Airman's life.

The Dynamic Retasking Capability Urgent Operational Need provides the ability for C-17 and C-130J aircraft to be directed to an alternative location with up-to-date information.

According to program officials, with the DRC the flight crew can receive data such as threat information, weather awareness and text messages, ultimately leading to a potential change to a mission.

By early April, the system had been used in theater for more than 11,000 flight hours, and supported air land and airdrop missions. For the C-130J, more than 1,500 missions were completed and for the C-17, 675. Although originally intended to increase the success of cargo airdrops, the team here knew there would be other unforeseen uses.

"As part of any mission those aircraft are participating in, they have the ability to use the DRC," said 2nd Lt. Joseph Silvio, DRC program manager.

In late March, a C-130J was in use as a routine aeromedical evacuation flight in Afghanistan, conveying patients from forward operating bases to Bagram Airfield. Through the DRC, the crew received an urgent message to divert to an alternate location to evacuate a patient who medical personnel thought needed more care than was available at their location. (Full details are available here.)

The patient, a combat controller, had a large wound where he had been shot in the leg and also a broken femur. His current condition was "urgent but stable."

However, as the flight headed back to the next scheduled FOB per the original plan, the controller's condition worsened. He was losing blood and his blood pressure dropped.

The crew knew they needed to get him to a medical facility that could deal with the condition as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the crew was not able to use traditional methods to communicate the request to change their flight plan. However, by using the DRC, they were able to let their command and control know they were changing course to head straight to Bagram.

Medical crew on the aircraft were able to control the bleeding during the flight and once arriving at Bagram, the patient had surgery, which saved his leg and his life.

"We knew there would be other uses for the capability," said Silvio. "It's gratifying to know something designed to support the airdrop mission was able to be used to save life and limb."

Personnel from the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, who accomplished this mission, praised the abilities of the DRC as well.

"The system has become indispensable in our current operations," said Lt. Col. Sean Barden, 772nd EAS director of operations. "We use DRC on every mission to accomplish everything from passing weather alerts and NOTAMs [Notices to Airmen] for re-tasked fields to assisting during emergency refrags/diverts."

As the system started out as an urgent operational need, in January it reached a decision point where three choices could have been made: keep it as an enduring capability; sustain the capability in theater; or dispose of it. After a capability transition review, it was decided that the system would be kept as an enduring capability.

The program office here is not purchasing any new systems, but working to support what is already fielded.

And although Barden says there could still be some improvements made, he said the technology is sound.

"In all, the technology has proven very reliable given the relative youth of the system." He added that it's also "surprisingly user-friendly."

The DRC team at Hanscom is pleased the capability is improving missions, not only as anticipated, but even beyond.

"It's great to see a system we fielded helped with saving someone's life," said Bill Herbert, DRC deputy program manager.

Editor's note: information included in this article was from an article from 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, http://www.centaf.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123344002

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