From the Wiregrass – F/W 2021

MECCD Chief- COL Samuel Fricks

Greetings from beautiful Mother Rucker! Below, you’ll find updates along a few of our many important areas of interest. Its been an extremely busy, yet productive year and I’m excited about the future capabilities the MEDEVAC Enterprise is hard at work to provide for our future force. We’re also excited to announce MECCD will soon have the only HH-60 on display in the Army! Made possible by a gift from the DUSTOFF Association and through coordination with many other agencies, we were able to acquire the only surviving HH-60L in the Army. The aircraft (26-995), served in the 507th/C 2-4 and C 2-501st. before serving as a maintenance trainer at Fort Eustis. We’ll be sure to provide an update once the project is complete. DUSTOFF!

Personnel Updates- Dr. Michael Wesolek

COL Stephen Barnes handed over the reins of MECCD to COL Samuel Fricks in June.  He retired after 30 years of honorable service to our nation.  He was a champion for the MEDEVAC mission and would not compromise when it came to ensuring our Soldiers knew that someone was ready to evacuate them if they were injured on the battlefield.  He lived by MAJ Kelley’s famous words, “When I have your wounded.”  Congratulations to COL (Ret) Barnes and best wished in your future endeavors.

In the next few months, MECCD will be saying goodbye to our NCOIC, SFC Bishop.  He has served at MECCD for nearly 4 years and the institutional knowledge that leaves with him will be greatly missed.  SFC Bishop’s expertise gained from his operational experiences as a critical care flight paramedic (CCFP), standardization/flight instructor, and an Observer Coach/Trainer coupled with his in-depth understanding of the MEDEVAC Enterprise, will create a void that will be difficult to overcome (we will keep him on speed-dial!).  SFC Bishop will be retiring after 20 years of exceptional service to our country and DUSTOFF!

On a more positive note, MECCD welcomes four new additions to the team.  MAJ Audrey Boenker comes to use from USAARL and will serve as the Military Deputy at MECCD.  She is a 67J who will bring a wealth of knowledge to the organization and the MEDEVAC enterprise as a whole.  CPT Marjorie Evans arrived to fill the long vacancy in MECCD’s Aviation Physician Assistant (Flight Surgeon) position.  She has an extensive background as a combat medic (prior enlisted) and physician assistant.  She is a recent graduate of the U.S. Army Flight Surgeon Course with fresh experience from the field.  SFC Billy Raines will be filling the role of MECCD NCOIC and Senior Evacuation Capability Developer.  SFC Raines is a CCFP that comes to use from C Company (Air Ambulance) 2-3 General Support Aviation Brigade and has over 16 years of service in DUSTOFF.  And finally, SFC Jason Sigmon is a CCFP who assumed duties as the MECCD Operations NCO.  He comes to us with 8 years of DUSTOFF experience following an assignment as an Observer Coach/Trainer at Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC).  The subject matter expertise coming with both SFC Raines and SFC Sigmon will be a great asset to MECCD and the evacuation enterprise.

Future Vertical Lift (FVL)/Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) —Mr. Mark Robinson

The Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) is the FVL platform slated to execute the MEDEVAC mission set for the 2030 and beyond timeframe.  It will provide increased capabilities of speed above 230 knots, a 250 nm combat radius, degraded visual environment situational awareness, and greater carrying capacity. The greater speed and range will enable a better pace in clearing the battlefield across unit boundaries and provide reach to support maneuver elements at extended distances. 

The Army Requirements Oversight Committee (AROC) approved the Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document (A-CDD) on 2 October 2020 which included a MEDEVAC annex with Mission Equipment Package (MEP) requirements that will fully support the increased medical skill set of the CCFP.  The updated MEP includes a light-weight, modular patient handling system to carry up to six litter patients, six ambulatory patients, or a combination; an Environmental Control System (ECS) for temperature control; a rescue hoist; and carry-on oxygen and suction.  The FLRAA program Request for Proposal (RFP) was answered by two vendors, Lockheed Martin/Boeing (the Defiant) and Bell Helicopters (V-280), in September 2021 and is now with the source selection board.  A down-select is scheduled for FY22 with the winner moving on to build six prototype aircraft in an accelerated acquisition program intended to meet First Unit Equipped (FUE) in FY30.  Medical equities are developing the MEP prototype in parallel, fully synchronized with the platform development schedule and fully supported by The Surgeon General (TSG).

Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS)-Mr. Don Choate

MECCD is working with the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) on the Project Crimson – Emergency “Just-In-Time” Delivery and Recovery of Whole blood via Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Project Crimson is a TATRC Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) using the L3Harris Altitude HQ-90 Long Range VTOL UAS evaluated at MSSPIX 21. The HQ-90 provided utility in supporting the movement of blood, medicine, medical supplies, and other medical logistical requirements in a temperature controlled pod.

The HQ-90 uses departs vertically with four electric propellers then transitions to forward flight using a fixed-wing aviation internal combustion engine with a pusher prop. The ground control system can operate beyond line-of-site (LOS) through its integration with the HQ-90’s Peregrine Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and the Near Earth Autonomy’s Peregrine Autonomy System enabled Long-Range electronic Vertical Take-off & Landing (eVTOL) Operation. Traveling 40 kilometers at 40 knots, the HQ-90 uses the Peregrine Autonomy System to control flight and LIDAR equipment to autonomously avoid obstacles and select the landing zone (LZ).  The system will be capable of providing two five pound pods with a medical payload within a 10 foot diameter area. It has the ability to drop two five pound pods with a parachute drop from 100 feet AGL within a three (3) meter radius.

This test and evaluation (T&E) provided proof-of-concept for emergency delivery of Class VIII and blood. The system successfully executed all seven mission threads across three remote and unprepared landing zones with varying obstacles and terrain; with autonomous VTOL and parachute drop successfully executed at each site. The parachute drops consisted of two 5lb payloads (inclusive of the cooling module) at a descent rate of eight meters per second within a three meter radius dropping from 100 feet above ground level. This capability could better enable point-of-injury medics to rapidly and effectively treat combat casualties at the site of injury through the swift delivery of time-sensitive capabilities at the Point of Need.  Project Crimson can make it possible to deliver medical supplies to the battlefield by UAS which allows MEDEVAC platforms to be more available for the evacuation of the critically injured.

Additionally, MECCD remains teamed up with TATRC, U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL), and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) through the establishment of requirements to support the internal development of the Combat Evacuation Mission Module (CEMM) project. The CEMM project continues development to inform Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) acquisition Program of Record (POR) the patient space, medical attendant space, medical support equipment, and medical device support required for future operations. The internal Engineering Requirements, Interface Definition Documents, and Conceptual design drawings/models were developed to build the Cabin Prototype Functional Demonstrator slated for 2024.

En Route Care Branch – George Hildebrandt

Like the COVID environment changed the way we have interacted with people, it also placed a new constraint on how our Providers interact with their patients.  The En Route Care (ERC) Branch, which includes the Critical Care Flight Paramedics and Physician Assistant of MECCD, worked to ensure the future capabilities being developed would have a positive impact for the DUSTOFF and Medical Evacuation community.

Efforts included material solutions to provide safety to both the provider and patient, and ensure the provider could accomplish the required treatment.  Our NCOs worked with the TRANSCOM Surgeon Office, USAARL, and Office of The Surgeon General (OTSG) to assess the Isolation Pods (ISOPODS) for use on rotary and fixed wing evacuation platforms during current and future operations related to moving infectious patients.  MECCD also continued to provide subject matter expertise to on-going efforts regarding new designs for Multi-Channel Infusion Pumps, with the current system no longer viable.  This Joint effort is led by the Air Force who is writing the acquisition and requirement documents to address the entire DoD’s capability needs.

Through other initiatives led by the Material Developers, the modernization of current systems and design of new systems continue. The ERC Branch is assisting PD MEDEVAC with identifying the characteristics and functionality for a system that increases safety and decreases hoist operation time.  ERC Branch’s collaboration with the Joint Program Office (JPO) for Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) and Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC) created an Ambulance variant which has been completed and will be delivered to Ft. Detrick in November 2021.  This is one of many variants the JPO JLTV team is working through their JLTV Utility Multi-Purpose Shelter (JUMPS) effort.  ERC Branch is also participating in JPO JLTV’s next effort for the Command and Control variant.  Lastly, the SKED has been modernized with thanks to Mr. Jaime Lee (MRDC) and his persistent efforts to provide first-class material to our enroute care providers.  The new SKED has a smaller footprint, integrated straps, and provides an internal 5-point harness to secure the patient, all while decreasing the time it takes to assemble and secure the patient.

We appreciate the input and assistance from the Operational Force as we work to provide systems and equipment that will increase your ability to do the mission.  In the near future, efforts will focus more heavily on Whole Blood at the Point of Need and Army Tactical Telemedicine.  Each requires a holistic approach to ensure these capabilities decrease workload, increase survivability, and integrate seamlessly with the entire Army Health System.

In Closing – MAJ Audrey Boenker

The MECCD Team remains postured to address the evolving needs of the Aeromedical Evacuation Enterprise.  It is my honor to be a part of an organization relentlessly committed to the most essential mission within Army Medicine – to expeditiously evacuate casualties to higher echelons of care.  We remain ready to address the needs of units who give so much to the Warfighter and encourage those in the DUSTOFF Community to let us know how we can better assist this important mission.  DUSTOFF!

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