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Joint Endeavours Ensures Successful Retrieval

On the 19th August the B757 touched down in New Zealand after a long but very successful retrieval of our servicemen who had been injured in Afghanistan.

This was a major “Joint Effort” with three services and two nations working closely to together to co-ordinate the aeromedical evacuation of our injured servicemen from in-theatre back home to New Zealand. It began with the evacuation from Afghanistan through to Landstuhl, Germany. The next stage saw the USAF bring them to the Walter Reid Medical Centre, Washington DC on a C17. From Washington DC it was the New Zealand Aeromedical Team that flew our boys’ toward home via Hawaii, where they spent the night at Tripler Medical Centre. The last leg was from Hawaii to Christchurch and Ohakea respectively.

This was the first time the B757 had operated in a strategic AME configuration. The system is designed to allow “bed to bed” transfer of a patient using a stretcher supporting specialist medical equipment on a bridge arm which eliminates the need to transfer equipment and patients on and off stretchers.  The design uses a “work station” pallet system allowing the AME medical team to have a dedicated area to prepare and set up for medical procedures.

As the development of a Strategic AME capability still remains under project management and has not ready to be declared operational, the AME equipment was installed, flown and used under a special concession. Undertaking the task proved both the concept and the versatility of the design. The palletised AME system not only provided our servicemen comfort and space, it also allows the medical teams to have access to the patient from any angle while being at a comfortable waist height for staff to work from. The general physical and mental well being of our patients continually improved as the journey home progressed, and it was obvious to see how much better they felt as the return journey progressed.

The arrival of the B757 in Washington DC and in Hawaii was of great interest to the USAF who we’re keen to see the AME set up. They applauded the manoeuvrability afforded around the stretcher and the integration of medical equipment on the bridge as well as the equipment tray located under the stretcher. They were also suitably impressed with the work station set up as it was spacious, provided storage and preparation areas for medicines and lab work, and a sink allowing staff to wash their hands at the patient's side rather than having to retreat to the rear of the aircraft.

This maiden voyage was a great opportunity to test the AME equipment and processes from which many useful lessons have been learnt which once applied will only enhance the current set-up. The AME team are extremely proud and honoured to have been able to bring our servicemen home safe and sound.

The NZDF AME team consisted of:

Medical Crew Director: SQN LDR Telford:

Medical Officers:  SQN LDR’s Campbell and Nealis:

Nurses: SQN LDR Sweeting, Major’s Fitzell and Munroe:

Medics:  FSGT Blakeway, Sgt Dawson and LAC McDonald.


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