167th’s new critical care team ready to fly

By By Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle | Aug. 5, 2019

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. —

The Critical Care Air Transport Team recently stood up at the 167th Airlift Wing is “ready to rock and roll” according to 1st Lt. Brock Martin, CCATT member and nurse for the 167th Medical Group.

The Air Force Surgeon General announced, just over a year ago, that the Air Force would be increasing CCATT capabilities to meet the needs of the warfighter. 

Martin, who did much of the legwork to get the CCATT going at the 167th, said the Guard is well suited for this mission because there are many Guardsmen with extensive critical care experience already, gained through their civilian jobs.

The team, who just completed valuable training during the Sentry Storm exercise with the 167th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and the 167th En-route Patient Staging System, provides medical support to the most critical patients in flight.

“It’s basically an ICU (intensive care unit) in the back of an airplane,” explained Maj. Lori Wyatt, a civilian emergency room nurse and nurse with the 167th Medical Group.

The CCATT, comprised of a critical care physician, critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist can augment aeromedical evacuation personnel by providing constant and specialized attention to the sickest patients.

“It’s amazing what can be done,” said Wyatt. “We can put air lines and chest tubes in on the aircraft, in flight, if necessary.”

Wyatt, who is also an emergency room nurse, said it is a completely different way to practice medicine.

“On the ground, in the hospital, hearing is integral to the patient assessment process, we listen for heart and belly sounds, but in flight our ability to use the sense of hearing is diminished,” she explained. “We rely heavily on sight and feel, we have to be attuned to our patient and constantly monitor them while also adjusting for pressure changes, temperature changes and turbulence in flight.”

According to the Air Force Surgeon General, reducing the medical footprint in combat zones is vital for the future of Air Force Medicine. Large theater combat hospitals are expensive to set up, staff and protect, and may not always be feasible for U.S. forces to deploy. CCATTs can land at small forward airfields, take on critically injured patients, keep them stable during flight, and deliver them to a hospital across the world for further treatment.

Martin, who will be a certified registered nurse anesthetist in December, said he hopes the 167th will eventually add a second CATT and added, “Everyone on the team joined because we want to get out there, we want to deploy.”