MECCD Director—COL Steve Barnes
Greetings from the Wiregrass to the entire Aeromedical Evacuation Enterprise at-large! First Up, allow me to thank each and every one of you in the DUSTOFF formation. What you do in support of your fellow Soldier in the noble mission of the MEDEVAC is vastly important and appreciated. Throughout this year, the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges in almost every aspect of our daily lives, on and off duty. I appreciate your ongoing dedication, professionalism, and adaptability as you continue to serve the Nation. Our ongoing pledge, from the team here at Medical Evacuation Concepts & Capabilities Division (MECCD), is to represent you, the user, to frame your operational needs into well-defined DOTMLPF-P capability requirements; in turn, these lead to solutions to aid you in the execution of the Mission to Save Lives. My aim is to continually earn and retain your trust in MECCD as your “champion” for communicating up, down, left, and right. We consistently brief and remind Senior Leaders and other uniformed members that MECCD is the effective MEDEVAC Operations Center of Army Medicine. Like you, as DUSTOFFers, we are very committed to being very good at what we do. We are here to assist; anyway, anytime, anywhere. DUSTOFF!
Personnel Updates—SFC Michael Bishop
MECCD has had several personnel departures this year. Mr. Rick Stockhausen, who has served as our Senior Force integrator since 2015, departed MECCD in January to serve as the Director of Concepts, Experimentation, and Analysis Directorate at Fort Rucker. LTC Seth Swartz, who served as the MECCD Deputy, departed in July to serve as MEDEVAC Product Director at Redstone Arsenal, AL. Lastly, MSG Joseph Buatti, who served as our Senior Evacuation Capability Developer NCO, departed in July to serve as the 1SG for C Co. 1-52nd “Arctic DUSTOFF” at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Special thanks to Rick, LTC Swartz, and MSG Buatti for their hard work and dedication to MEDEVAC, and congratulations on their very well- deserved new positions.
Arriving to MECCD this year, we have MSG (Retired) Kent Anger, who joined us in February to serve as a MEDEVAC Analyst. Kent comes to us after serving 11 years as Plans and Operations Specialist at IMCOM. We welcomed back in May, CW4 (Retired) Donald Choate, as a Combat Development Analyst. Mr. Choate had previously served MECCD as a contractor for the last nine years. Dr. Michael Wesolek, former 67J Medical Service Corps Officer, joined MECCD in June to serve as our Senior Force Integrator. Dr. Wesolek has served as a government services employee for the last 14 years and was the Training Director for the Army Safety Center prior to his arrival with MECCD. LTC Samuel Fricks joined MECCD in July as our Deputy after completing his successful command tour as the Commander of 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas. This October, we welcomed back Mr. Lance Jones as our Knowledge Management Analyst. Mr. Jones has served as a contractor to MECCD for the last 10 years. Lastly, joining us in November, is SFC Billy Raines, coming to us from C Co. 2-3 Aviation Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. SFC Raines is a Critical Care Flight Paramedic with over 15 years’ service to the DUSTOFF community and 11 years’ experience as Standardization Instructor/Flight Instructor. SFC Raines will serve as our Evacuation Capability Developer NCO.
COVID OPS—Mr. Lance Jones
Beginning in March 2020, workplace environments across the DOD, including those at MECCD, experienced a seismic shift when literally tens of thousands of users transitioned to teleworking. While teleworking in and of itself is not a new concept within the DOD, this year’s pandemic resulted in operations evolving virtually overnight and will undoubtedly have a lasting impact. In fact, according to DOD CIO Dana Deasy in remarks made in April of this year, while the DOD has “…always been telework-ready long before the pandemic,” it was the exception rather than the rule, and they will almost assuredly be sustained even after the end of COVID-19.
At the direction of MG David J. Francis, Commanding General, USAACE and Fort Rucker, and under the leadership of our Chief, COL Stephen Barnes, MECCD began exercising teleworking capabilities, along with the rest of Fort Rucker, during the final week of March. With the almost instantaneous transition to teleworking, due to the pandemic, many new challenges had to be addressed on exceedingly condensed timelines. Whether it was troubleshooting home networks and their inherent bandwidth limitations with regards to Wi-Fi, or providing detailed information and instructions pertaining to new remote collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, it was during this time that the value and importance of both Knowledge Management (KM) and Information Technology (IT) converged to successfully support MECCD personnel in converting disparate, remote networking environments into a cohesive unit. So while MECCD operations may have evolved virtually overnight, our mission remained steadfast, and it was essential that our office continued uninterrupted operations to support both current and future Soldiers on the battlefield. Bottom line—invest in your S-6, IT/KM positions.
Force Structure—Mr. C.J Inglis
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Over the last 40 years much has changed with the Medical Company, Air Ambulance (MCAA), both in terms of unit design and aggregate fleet. But through all the changes and ups and downs, one thing seems to remain—the 15-ship construct continues to provide the best all-around support and provides the greatest flexibility for contingency. Beginning with the transition from UH-1 to UH-60 back in the 80’s, and the first Gulf War in the 90’s, the 15-ship design proved itself to be the most appropriate in terms of providing requisite support at both division and at echelons above division. Although Army Transformation deconstructed the independent 15-ship “numbered” air ambulance companies and assimilated them as 12-ship subordinate “lettered” companies under the newly constructed General Support Aviation Battalions (GSAB), inherent flaws in the 12-ship company eventually forced a return to the 15-ship design. Since then, the overall fleet size has ebbed and flowed on par with the number of Combat Aviation Brigades (CAB) in the force, but the basic 15-ship blueprint continues to prove itself as an appropriate design point for the MCAA.
As Army Aviation transitions their CABs to Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) capable designs, they are moving away from a standard modular design to CABs tailored to the divisions/HQ they support. With limited modifications, the 15-ship MCAA will remain within the “MDO Capable” CABs. Then, as we look to the future, and a potential Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) air ambulance variant, that 15-ship design point continues to prove itself through modeling and simulation. The increased speed and range offered by FLRAA will allow the MCAA to cover much greater distances and allow delivery of Urgent and Urgent Surgical patients directly to the appropriate medical treatment facility with much greater efficiency. The 15-ship design will allow a FLRAA MCAA to execute an increased workload, but do so from relative sanctuary.
FLV/FLRAA—Mr. Mark Robinson
Future Vertical Lift (FVL) is an acquisition effort to develop the Services vertical lift requirements for the 2030 and beyond timeframe, with increased capabilities of speed above 230 knots, 250 nm combat radius, degraded visual environment situational awareness, and greater carrying capacity. Increased speed/range enables MEDEVAC to bypass Role 2 and go directly to Role 3 or higher (potentially even out of theater). (Implications: higher Roles will have the appropriate skills/critical care available. FRSTs can be quickly overwhelmed. Bypassing Role 2 eliminates additional patient transfer missions.) Range increase allows optimal positioning of medical assets across the medical footprint. (MTFs can be positioned farther back and in more secure areas. This reduces or eliminates ambulance transfer points and all the associated logistical and security support. Role 3 assets can be consolidated and special skill sets made more available.) Greater speed/range will enable greater velocity in clearing the battlefield across unit boundaries and reach isolated/separated formations/elements at extended distances. FVL MEDEVAC will have an updated Mission Equipment Package (MEP), including a light-weight modular, patient handling system, an ECS for temperature control, a rescue hoist, and carry-on oxygen and suction.
The Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) is the Future Vertical Lift platform that will execute the MEDEVAC mission set. MEDEVAC requirements, as included in the Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document (A-CDD), were approved by the Army Requirements Oversight Committee (AROC) on 2 October 2020. The AROC revalidated our refined requirements for further work with industry and leads to contract award. The presence of AMEDD leadership, MG Faris and LTG Dingle, demonstrates our commitment and relevance to modernization efforts, such as the FLRAA, specifically the future MEDEVAC platform. The MEDEVAC Annex incorporated into the A-CDD illustrates medical integration across CFT/Army modernization priority efforts in support of MDO. Our participation in the AROC ensures that our equities continue to be represented as fiscal decisions are made.
Ground Systems—Mr. George Hildebrandt
As some may know, MECCD is now also responsible for capability development of Ground Evacuation. We are working with the Army Capability Managers (ACM) for MEDCoE to ensure that the current and future systems used for Ground Evacuation meet the Fighting Force’s needs. Areas that are being worked currently include final testing of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) that has two medical variants, replacing the M113 and M577 in the Armor BNs, provide equipment rack inside the M997A3, as well as working with the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle PM to develop a JLTV Ambulance Demonstrator.
The AMPV will increase mobility, survivability, and en-route care abilities. The Medical Evacuation (ME) variant will have the same type of litter lift system as the Stryker, increased space to perform care, and an ECS to control the inside environment while treating patients. The M997A3, which will be replacing all the M997A1’s that are currently fielded, will come with increased automotive capabilities (braking, transmission, electrical) as well as upgrades to the ECS and placing 110V power inside the treatment area. A project between ACM and Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC) is underway to develop a rack that will attached to the upper litter berth, so when in a stowed position, can accommodate a patient vital signs monitor, ventilator, IV pumps, suction, or other patient care items. The JLTV effort is to show that an ambulance variant can be created utilizing the same base system, with a treatment area similar to the M997. The treatment area is envisioned to accommodate the patient treatment and monitoring systems, as well a lift system to place patients in the upper litter berths. The JLTV Ambulance would also have a modularity concept to allow units and providers to move items within the treatment area to allow adjustments based on the mission.
Lastly, MECCD is working to create i3D modeling for the M997A3, Stryker MEV, and the AMPV. This modeling software has been instrumental with assisting to design new capabilities and modernization for the Air Ambulance variants (UH60, HH60, FVL). This will assist the capability and material developer in the future to design the next patient handling systems for the ground evacuation platforms.
Robotic Autonomous Systems (RAS)—Mr. Don Choate
Medical Evacuation Concepts and Capabilities Division (MECCD) is teamed up with Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) and U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab (USAARL) to establish requirements support internal development of the Combat Evacuation Mission Module (CEMM) project. The CEMM project will 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 for future operations. Coordination is in progress for NAVAIR Engineers to review current HH-60/UH-72 Patient Handling Systems (PHS) to develop future CEMM PHS design. NAVAIR engineers will review all current PHS and Medical Equipment Sets to design the best possible interior to provide care in a Medical Evacuation Vehicle.
The CEMM project consists of two major subsystems: The Multi-Mission Vehicle Interface (MMVI) research, provides the system interfaces to the transport vehicle for rapid configurability of the interior cabin for different mission types, including CASEVAC and MEDEVAC. A component of the MMVI subsystem is the Safe Transport and Evacuation Protocols System (STEPS), which will provide rules to govern flight behavior during evacuation based on patient injury type to ensure safe transport on non-MEDEVAC platforms
The Semi-Autonomous Casualty Management Module (SACM2) research is a self-contained modular system with medical equipment and devices necessary to provide en-route care during casualty evacuation with limited medical resources. SACM2 will use Virtual Health (VH) and Communications Interface, defining a cyber-secure means of supporting en-route care with emerging VH technologies.
In Closing—LTC Sam Fricks
As you can tell from the above, MECCD is deeply involved with the present and future systems of MEDEVAC. We remain poised and engaged to ensure that we get it right. It is my honor and privilege to be part of such a great organization and to be a member of the DUSTOFF community. I challenge you to remain engaged, no matter where you find yourself. For those in the units, keep up the fight, and do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission. For those who have retired, keep telling your story and remind the current generation of their important lineage and what that represents. Until next time.