86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron trains with Romanian counterparts for the first time

OTOPENI, Romania — U.S. Air Force Capt. Erskine Cook Jr., 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, familiarizes Romanian air force medical evacuation counterparts with equipment and procedures used to evacuate patients during the joint exercise Carpathian Summer 2010, Otopeni Airlift Base, Romania, May 12. Members of the U.S. and Romanian air forces joined together for a week long exercise to build partnerships and enhance proficiency in working together. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Jocelyn Rich)

OTOPENI, Romania — Airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, alongside members of the 37th Airlift Squadron and 435th Contingency Response Group, spent the week of May 10 training with their Romanian counterparts.

Held at Otopeni Airfield, near Bucharest, Operation Carpathian Summer 2010 was designed to strengthen the partnership between the U.S. and Romanian air forces, while elevating their capability to work together.

Though this is not the first time American airmen have worked with the Romanian air force, the 86th AES has never before joined in the training with their Romanian colleagues.

"This is the first time, to my knowledge, that [the Romanian air force] has ever invited an American aeromedical evacuation squadron to come and compare notes about the process," said  Air Force Capt. Erskine Cook Jr., 86th AES flight nurse.

A major goal for Americans and Romanians alike was to identify the differences each nation has in its processes, and see how the two medical units can work around these hurdles in future real-world scenarios.

"[Romanian] equipment works on 220 volts, ours works on 115 volts," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Patrick Skiver, 86th AES superintendent. "That's a big difference. We can't take their equipment and use it on our aircraft, unless we are using it on battery power. Equipment is a big issue."

The primary aircraft used by the Romanian crews is the Puma helicopter, while U.S. crews add the long-range fixed-wing capability.

"Primarily they are used to rotary wing, short range, for their wounded; so we are really trying to spool up their fixed-wing application," said Cook. "They have recently gotten more aircraft, they want to be more involved in patient transport - it's the natural evolution."

The teams also found similarities that transcend their disparities.

"The only difference I see is the equipment. It all does the same thing, but they look different," said Romanian air force Capt. Dragos Tudos, a flight surgeon. "The actual principle is the same, the people are the same, the way to do things is the same."

By working together, the two teams overcame several obstacles to work toward their common goal.

"It's just a matter of seeing what we have to work with and how to best utilize it," said Cook. "We all have the same goal of getting the patient to a more definitive level of care. Any time we can make that happen quicker, faster, better; everybody wins."

The sentiment was echoed by both countries.

"It is not very complicated," said Tudos. "I am a doctor, so the patient is the mission."

Through all the talks and training, the pieces came together to create an invaluable training scenario for everyone involved.

"We are going to perform a medical evacuation exercise with a helicopter from the Romanian air force and American planes," said Tudos. "We are trying to create as real to life scenario as possible."

The joint exercise, while building partnerships between the U.S. and Romanians, also laid the foundation for future exercises and operations.

"Our commander and deputy commander have expressed interest in providing more support during exercises. This is our first exercise with Romania, but we have been involved in training with Bulgaria, and the Ukraine. We are very involved," said Skiver.

Carpathian Summer has certainly opened the door for further training opportunities between the U.S. and Romanian forces.

"I think that we are forging some good bonds here, and look forward to working with them in the future," said Cook.

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