Sabers units get the point: 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Gustavo Castillo
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 52nd Fighter Wing has more than 30 units assigned, working day in and day out to fulfill the mission of defending American and allied interests while building partnership capacity.

Throughout the year, 52nd FW Public Affairs will spotlight each of the wing's units, as together they serve a critical role in fulfilling this mission. This week's spotlight is the 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron.

Sickness and disease can impact operations at any moment, so Airmen must be medically ready to perform their mission.

The 52nd AMDS mission is to optimize the combat capability of Airmen in the 52nd FW and associated geographically separated units by providing aeromedical, occupational and preventive health support to 15,000 beneficiaries.

Airmen from the 52nd AMDS are responsible for running six areas of the aerospace enterprise. These include flight and operational medicine, aerospace operational physiology training, occupational and community health programs, health and wellness center, emergency management and public health.

"We support about 800 personnel through flight and operational medicine clinic," said Lt. Col. Daniel Murray, 52nd AMDS commander from Toronto. "We also sustain 17 geographically separated units to include Detachment 1 in Poland. Providing medical support to these units saves hundreds of thousands of dollars on TDYs to send people here."

The squadron supports global contingency operations and ensures force health protection for more than 4,000 active duty members by providing primary medical and vision care for flyers, special-duty personnel and other eligible beneficiaries.

Flight and operational medicine Airmen do everything they can to keep operators healthy and capable to accomplish the mission. Periodic health assessments test flyers and operators with certain standards relative to functions of an individual's jobs.

"We got a call that a pilot was having symptoms of decompression sickness, which is basically nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream," said Staff Sgt. Christina Peabody, 52nd AMDS flight medical technician from Swartz Creek, Mich. "A regular doctor wouldn't be able to take care of them."

According to Peabody, the flight doctor recognized the symptoms of the pilot and used his training to figure out a plan of action. He escorted the pilot to a decompression chamber in Luxembourg to receive the correct treatment for his ailment.

Flight doctors receive special training that allows them to identify medical issues that are only common in flyers.

Aerospace operational physiology training teaches Airmen the correct techniques to prevent adverse events while conducting their job. The training helps operators recognize symptoms and provides training to counter them.

Another important role these Airmen play is ensuring occupational environments are safe. The Occupational and Community Health Program control hazards and looks out for communal diseases. Food and water testing is done to search for anything that can affect the health of Airmen.

"Without biological environmental personnel assessing occupational hazards and tracking risk associated with those and mitigating them, people would get hurt," said Murray. "People would get sick, have loss of hearing, even diseases could pop up from exposure to chemical hazards and improper respiratory protection."

Health and environmental hazard support and training are only small portions of the 52nd AMDS. The health and wellness center offers fitness and nutrition programs for Saber Airmen and their families to keep Sabers fit, and therefore mission ready.

Besides training and everyday mission support, the 52nd AMDS ensures the base is ready to perform contingency operations during a disaster. Emergency management uses the entire 52nd AMDS and supplemental representatives from the base to manage specific aspects of emergency management. A disease containment plan and radiological hazards are just a glimpse of the preventive measures used to safeguard Airmen.

Sometimes it is best to solve problems at the source before they can get out of hand. The public health office manages and performs public health activities and programs in support of the Aerospace Medicine Enterprise. Community health management, a large part of public health, is communicable disease control and prevention, food safety and defense, sanitary compliance and public health contingency response.

"We are the quiet professionals behind the scenes who are making sure that things don't happen," said Murray. "We are largely involved in preventive medicine, and as long as we are doing our job, things don't happen. We are out there every day intervening in things that the public hopefully never see, because that is our job."