Four C-17 Globemaster III aircraft flew out just before midnight on Saturday to transport approximately 300 health care personnel in preparation for Hurricane Irma disaster response operations -- even as parts of Florida were still evacuating before the Category 4 storm hit.
At the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the medical staff -- physicians, nurses, veterinary staff, paramedics, fatality management professionals, and experienced command and control staff -- flew from Washington Dulles International Airport to Florida’s Orlando International Airport, Air Mobility Command officials said in a release.
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The doctors and staff are part of the National Disaster Medical System, “which provides response capabilities to augment existing healthcare systems in affected areas,” AMC spokesman Maj.Korry Leverett said in the release.
The C-17s -- from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; and March Air Reserve Base, California -- were pre-positioned by Air Mobility Command's 618th Air Operations Center at Scott. The AOC plans, tasks, and executes airlift, aerial refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions throughout the globe.
“Additionally, there are about 20,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies pre-positioned at Scott to provide assistance when called upon,” AMC spokesman Col. Chris Karns told Military.com.
The service on Thursday deployed a 10-bed patient staging facility and 28 airmen from Travis Air Force Base, California, to St. Croix, to support patient movement from Schneider Regional Medical Center, St. Thomas, to Puerto Rico.
As Irma approached the Florida coast over the weekend, the Air Force said it would be using Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, and Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, as the staging areas for roughly 800 trucks, and various support facilities to include lodging and dining facilities, airfield operations, security and latrine services.
“The Air Force stands ready to provide multiple capabilities, including vertical airlift, security forces, airfield repair and medium altitude persistent airborne platforms in support of hurricane relief operations,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
“Aircrews and aircraft are on alert to provide search and rescue support,” she said in an email.