Ministry of Defence

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100 Years of Aeromedical Evacuation

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Lone Airman in Desert Rescue

A lone airman saved the life of a wounded soldier by flying
him directly to a field hospital 45 minutes away – a journey by land that would
have taken days across hazardous desert terrain. Remarkably, this flight took
place 100 years ago on 19 February 1917 and was the first recorded aeromedical
evacuation.

Lance Corporal MacGregor of the Imperial Camel Corps had
been shot in the ankle as his unit advanced towards Bir-el-Hassana in Egypt. Forty
four miles from the nearest medical facility in El Arish, it was felt that L/Cpl
MacGregor’s best chance of survival was to be flown there in the observer’s
seat of a Royal Flying Corps B.E.2c biplane.

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One hundred years on, and still one year away from its own
centenary, the Royal Air Force remains at the forefront of this life saving aviation
capability.

The heroism of the RAF’s Medical Emergency Response Teams (MERT)
became synonymous with recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of
injured servicemen today owe their lives to the RAF helicopter aircrew, Flight
Doctors, Flight Nurses and Flight Medics who risked their lives to recover
them, sometimes while still under enemy fire.

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Specially adapted RAF C-17s and Voyagers, manned by aeromedical
evacuation (AE) flight doctors, nurses and medics, provide the next step of the
journey home for injured and ill servicemen, wherever they may be in the world.
Critical Care Air Support Teams (CCAST) move critically unwell patients, while
general AE teams move general ward patients.

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The RAF currently has one Regular AE squadron and two
Reserve AE squadrons. Squadron Leader Sarah Charters ARRC, has served as a
Reservist with 4626 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron for 27 years and has deployed
to two Gulf wars and twice to Afghanistan. She said: “It is an absolute honour
to be a part of this fantastic service which has such a rich history of saving
lives.

“My squadron’s motto is ‘Safely Home’ and this neatly sums
up the role of Regular and Reserve aeromedical evacuation personnel. We provide
high quality clinical care in the air, all the way from point of injury on the
battlefield back to the UK.”

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Later this year, a re-enactment of L/Cpl MacGregors historic
flight in a B.E.2c will further mark this milestone for aeromedical evacuation
services. More information on medical roles in the RAF, either as a Regular or
Reserve, can be found here
or by searching ‘RAF medical careers’.

Editor: Flt Lt Peter Lisney

© MOD Crown Copyright 2017

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