A lift for life: Elmendorf C-130 crew helps save infant

By 1st Lt. Amy Hansen 3rd Wing Public Affairs

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - When a newborn child hovered between life and death, an Elmendorf C-130 and its crew made the difference.

Capt. Dave Meier, 517th Airlift Squadron aircraft commander, and his crew recently flew to Misawa Air Base, Japan, to pick up a critically ill infant. After the pick-up, the crew delivered the baby boy to Kadena AB, Japan, for an operation that saved his life.

The Elmendorf C-130 was in Fukuoka, Japan, conducting a routine Pacific Command support mission when the crew received a call requesting help from the Pacific Air Forces Air Mobility Operations Control Center.

While they were in the middle of loading cargo, the crew heard that the emergency medical evacuation was being set up, Captain Meier said.

The PACAF AMOCC initially asked the crew how quickly the C-130 could be airborne and the estimated flight time to Misawa AB and then Kadena AB.

"We began flight planning and stopped our upload in case we got the new mission," Captain Meier said. "We were ready to go when AMOCC called back 15 minutes later, and were airborne about 15 minutes after that, heading for Misawa AB."

According to Lt. Col. Eric Stone, 35th Medical Operations Squadron commander, KC-135s are normally used for medical evacuations from Misawa AB, but they are poorly suited for the special demands of neonatal transport.

"When the Theater Patient Movement Requirement Center notified us that Misawa AB had a newborn that needed immediate transport to Kadena AB for an operation, I immediately called down to Fukuoka," said Mr. Stefan Wenska, AMOCC airlift planner. "I spoke with Captain Meier about the re-route, and he and his crew were all over it.

"They made it up to Misawa in record time, waited for the medical crew, loaded the patient, and extended their duty day to fly that baby to Kadena AB," he continued.

The entire mission, from notification to final landing, took less than 14 hours, said Captain Meier.

The Elmendorf C-130 carried the infant, his parents and a special neonatal transport unit from Misawa AB to Kadena AB in less than five hours.

The newborn made it in good shape, and is now off life support and doing well, said Colonel Stone.

"It was good to see everything come together to help out this family," said Captain Meier. "We were glad to be in the right place to be part of it."

"This was the most rewarding mission I've ever done," said 1st Lt. Carrick Yaws, 517th AS copilot.

Other members of the crew included 2nd Lt. Dawn Carter, navigator, and Airman 1st Class Philip Martin, loadmaster.

Mr. Wenska sent a thank-you note to the 517th AS director of operations a day after the emergency airlift mission.

"Yesterday, a tragedy was averted by the above-and-beyond efforts of Captain Meier and crew ... Captain Meier should be proud of this humanitarian accomplishment - all of you should share in this success. Please pass on my heartfelt thanks to him and his crew for a job extremely well done."

(Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces News Service)