SNO news is good news 4...RAF 100 Special

RAF 100 Aeromedical Evacuation Team in South Sudan

Although the majority of the R2 Hospital on Op Trenton 4 is made up of Royal Navy personnel, we have the pleasure of sharing this tour with both Army and RAF colleagues.  In this, the centenary year of the RAF (1 April 2018), it seems appropriate to give the blog over to our RAF team. The Paramedics, Environmental Health Officer, Burns and Plastics Nurse and our Aeromedical Medical Evacuation Team (AMET) are all members of the RAF.  The AMET had been in place for 3 months when Op Trenton 4 R2 hospital staff arrived and this proved to be an absolute benefit to the Royal Navy team taking over the hospital, especially with the need to move a critically ill patient in our first week in theatre.   

So the QARNNS blog is all yours,

Happy Birthday to our RAF colleagues, here's to another 100 years...The Senior Service salute you!

Lt Cdr Karen McCullough


It was a glorious sunrise walking to work, the Ibis and Marabou Storks are feeding in the creek and the Black Kites are wheeling above in a clear blue sky, and I pondered the dilemma, How do you celebrate your 100thbirthday? Cake obviously, a gathering of friends, maybe a little party but how do I organise a fly past here on OP TRENTON? 

The Aeromedical Evacuation Team (AMET), The Royal Air Force element to OP TRENTON Role 2 Hospital, has been in theatre for a year now and can reflect on job well done. We are a team of 8 roughly split into organisational and operational flights with the ability to double hat during R&R. The Aeromedical Evacuation Coordinating Officer (AECO) , Deputy Aeromedical Liaison Officer (DAELO) are based here in Bentiu and organise all UN and UK Aeromedical (AE) from here to the UN Role 3 hospital in Uganda and UK Role 4 at RCDM via Nairobi. The operational AMET is based on a Critical Care Air Support Team (CCAST) and has five personnel, a consultant anaesthetist, two critical care qualified Flight Nurses (FN), a Flight Medic (FM) and our Medical & Dental Service (MDSS) Technician who looks after our electro medical equipment. Last, but not least, the Aeromedical Liaison Officer (AELO) is based in Juba where they are able to coordinate all missions involving UK personnel in theatre with the UN AE team.

The current AMET have been in theatre for 6 months and have had the pleasure of working with the Army, 33 Fd Hosp and now the RN (the Senior Service as I’m reminded) and as always the good natured inter-service banter has been of the highest quality. It’s a pity we will miss the Royal Air Force's turn of handle but we have been missing comforts of home and family for too long. OP TRENTON is a challenging tour, we started off in the wet season with torrential rain, mud galore, high temperatures and humidity. When you have to rescue your consultant from knee deep mud as he is slowly sinking you know life is going to be interesting. I can honestly say that I have never seen so many and such a varied array of insects during the wet season. When the ground is green from the amount of locusts and not from grass and hundreds of Indian toe biting beetles with pincers 5 cm wide are two vivid memories. One of our first medical procedures was the delicate extraction a 7 inch lizard off a sticky cockroach trap, 20 mins delicate work was rewarded with a nip of a finger before a very quick exit. However encouraging his mother, a 1m monitor lizard out of ITU a week later was a little more problematical as was the snake that made a home in the POMS bags in ED. Fortunately the hot season with temps of 35 - 45C and no rain for 4 months has seen off the insects but has bought its own challenges especially to the less hirsute and dust everywhere, and I mean everywhere. 

In between the wildlife studies we have successfully organised or escorted on a number of AE missions. The tempo and patient presentation has been very different from previous tours with minimal trauma and acute medical ailments coupled with exacerbation of chronic illness the norm with our more seriously ill patients. Although CCAST’s main focus and experience is critical care transfers, all members of the team are AE qualified and although we have transferred ventilated patients and HDU patients, the mainstay of our transfers have required less intervention. The makeup of the AE escorts is driven by the patient’s condition and can include a mix of Consultant, FN and FM or any combination of the three. The same goes for our equipment and oxygen which is weight driven.  As we need no electric or oxygen from the aircraft we use, we have flown on aircraft new to us which has given us a different working environment each flight, and unfortunately in one case air sickness.

When able, the team has helped out across the R2H and task force, assisting with the local employed civilian education programme, trauma training at Bentiu State Hospital and our MDSS technician assisting the electrical installation to our new accommodation. 

So how do you organise a 100th birthday celebration and flypast for the Royal Air Force Centenary? The chefs are making a cake, we have our friends the Royal Engineers and the Royal Navy who could be described as proud parents coming for a little party. The fly past, well we are having one but it may be of the paper variety.