After Action Report
Ron, I was going through my old military files and found something that may be of interest to you and your Marine friends. It's an after action report of a medevac
mission I conducted in Seoul, Korea during the Team Spirit Exercise in March, 1989. A Navy Sea Stallion helicopter went down after engine failures. Eighteen Marines jumped clear but were caught in the explosion. All were burned in various degrees. We moved them from Seoul to the Brooks Army Medical Burn Center at Fort Sam Houston. Read on:
FROM: Kenneth W. Kelley, CAPT, USAF, MSC/SGO
SUBJ: Korea Burn Mission After Action Report
I was alerted about the burn mission at 1330 on 22 Mar 89 while TDY at DET 1 at Yokota, AB. Captain Bledsoe, AEOO, called me at the Det and advised me there were 18 critical burn casualties at the 121st at Yong-San. Since I was closest to country I was to proceed to K-16, the Korean Presidential government airport, as quickly as possible to direct two C-141 burn missions.
Capt. Bledsoe attempted to divert the C-9, positioning medical crews and equipment in Osan, into Yokota to pick me up but that would have delayed the mission at least four hours due to crew rest concerns. Instead, I called Yokota base ops and found a C-141 departing for Taegu at 1615. I gathered up my git kit and made the airplane on time. We arrived at Taegu at 1915.
Base ops at Taegu was still open because of heavy Team Spirit traffic. Usually, they close at 1800. The base ops guys had heard of my needs and advised me that an Army Chogi flight was available the next morning. The Chogi flight is a C-12 running shuttles between Taegu and K-16. The C-12 lifted at 0745 and I was on the ground at K-16 at 0845.
At this point, I had no idea what was going on, had no contacts, nor knowledge about operational procedures at K-16. I talked to CWO Litszl in the operations section of the Army C-12 unit (A Company, 501st Aviation Regiment). I explained who I was and what I was there to accomplish. CWO Litszl was very helpful. He arranged autovon access to Clark so I could let the AECC know I was in position. He also provided me a KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the US Army) interpretor to help me manage C-141 mission ground support through Korean base ops at K-16. Corporal Lee was very helpful.
Through Corporal Lee and the Chief of K-16 Base Operations, we arranged for the C-141's to be parked on the VIP ramp. This is the only place on the airfield big enough to accomodate two C-141's at once without safety concerns.
The first C-141 arrived at 1045. To get to it, I had to have an escort of Korean Air Force police personnel. Security at K-16 was extremely tight and presented many obstacles. Anytime we had to leave the immediate vicinity of the aircraft we were required to have armed escort. An appeal to the K-16 commander alleviated this situation to some degree.
Two 5-ton trucks with medical equipment and supplies from the 121st were due at K-16 before the first C-141 arrived. Both were late so I caught a ride to the gate with the Korean Col. in charge of base ops. As we arrived at the gate, they pulled up, so we escorted them to the plane.
9 AES ground medical crewmembers and 121st personnel began installing equipment and Bear ventilators. This procedure took about one hour. The first mission airevac medical crew arrived via helicopter from Osan about 30 minutes before the first load of 8 casualties came by ambus from the 121st. We loaded them into the plane, checked equipment, buttoned up, and the first ship was off the ground at 1416.
The second C-141 arrived about 45 minutes after the first one departed. By this time, we had most of the intial problems under control, but Murphy's Law was still active.
The respiratory tech from the 121 set up the Bear ventilators on the second mission more rapidly, and got the O2 system set up more quickly. We then had some problems with the ambuses from the 121. They got their triage loading order mixed up. We had to back both busses up and alternate loading until we got every casualty in the proper place.
When the loadmaster attempted to close the ramp, the plane lost power. All ventilator patients had to be hand-bagged until the power cart was restarted. This happened three times in rapid succession. Finally, the AC decided to start the APU, and when he did, a voltage spike blew out two of the Bear ventilators. Fortunately, the 121st had two spares they sent to us on an H-60 within about 20 minutes. We buttoned up that one and got it on it's way on an on-time takeoff.
After the second C-141 left, Captain Graves and I were given a ride in an Army MP patrol car returning to Yong-San. We had a Korean police motorcycle escort through the middle of Seoul's business hour rush traffic. Imagine that! An Army MP vehicle was dispatched to drive us back to Osan to get the next available mission back to Yokota.
WHAT WORKED WELL?
1. Cooperation of the Army. The people at the 501st extended every courtesy and beyond. The interpreter helped us immensely.
2. Cooperation from the 121st was excellent. Cpl. Jones (AE Clerk) was always on hand to communicate our needs to the 121st. Whenever we needed medical supplies or additional equipment, Cpl. Jones could arrange helicopter support. Major Shipley, also from the 121st, stood by to marshal helicopters as the need arose.
3. Army MP's from Yong-San stood by to provide transportation and communication for my medical staff as needed. We had frequent need to get to Korean base ops and the Army Aviation company on the other side of the K-16 airfield. The Army provided us patrol cars and drivers as well as much needed communications support with the locals.
4. The Korean Air Force at K-16 made this job a lot easier. After I made the initial contact with the 501st and got my KATUSA interpreter, I was able to arrange the ground support essential to this mission. Through Cpl. Lee, I was able to coordinate fuel, fire suppression support, and airfield access.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK WELL?
We had no reliable contact with the AECC at Clark. Army autovon access out-of-country was extremely limited. However, the 1 AES still had an operational tactical AECC at the HTACC in Osan. We were able to reach them through the K-16 command post and conduct three-way conversations with Clark, PALCC, and USFJ (5th Air Force). This was difficult, but workable. We were never able to coordinate with Navy or Marine Corps personnel because we had no shared frequencies.
2. C-141 maintenance support in Korea
If either of the C-141's had developed common maintenance problems we would have been dead in the water. The nearest source of support is Yokota. Fortunately, this didn't happen but is a distinct possibility for future actions.
1. Don't use K-16 for critical air evac missions in the future. Lack of communications, maintenance, and ground support presented serious obstacles. We got lucky on this one, but it could have gone the other way with serious consequences to the patients. Recommend Osan for future operations because of adequate ramp space, comm, and ground support.
2. Preposition an Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Officer, a Flight Clinical Coordinator, and ground medical support personnel as far in advance of the mission as possible. This will allow maximum time to coordinate aircraft ground operations, communications, and aeromedical clinical information/medical equipment and supply support for the mission.
3. Recommend coordination of interservice communication in the PACCOM region. Different modes and procedures in long-range communication slowed the missions. Had we not been lucky on this one, the outcome would have been drastically different.
KENNETH W. KELLEY, CAPT, USAF, MSC
Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Officer
Ken is now a retired Major. Thank you Ken for sharing this with all of us.