Training with the En-Route Patient Staging System

  • Published
  • By Kevin M. Hymel, AFMS Historian Office

Prepare to lift,” called out an Air Force NCO to the three other litter carriers, all of whom were down on one knee. They each grabbed one of the litter’s four handles. “Lift.” They all stood in unison. “Prepare to move,” he said. “Move,” and they all carried the litter through the double doors of the ERPSS-50 Tent Kit 2 air lock.

The litter, however, was empty. The Airmen, an En-Route Patient Staging System (ERPSS) team assigned to the 60th Medical Group from Travis AFB in California, were walking through procedures on setting up and breaking down TK2 medical tents and patient movements to test the TK2’s operability at Camp Bullis, Texas.

They set up four tent bays connected by a tunnel, forming an “H,” creating part of a theater hospital for 50 cleared and stable warriors. Once the outer tent was assembled, the Airmen put up the chemical protection inner lining and attached it to the outer tent.

The mission, titled “CP ERPSS Configuration Testing,” enables the Airmen to test patient flow, sagging liners, floor integrity, and logistics within the tents, while Air Force officers, civilians, and contractors with Medical Logistics observe.

“We’re looking for feedback on the floors,” explained Cheryl Vaudreuil, a Logistics Management specialist with the Air Force Medical Operations Agency’s Medical Logistics Division.

Once the tents were set up, the Airmen brought in field beds, litters, and litter stands to create three holding areas. One master sergeant told a captain that the beds were too low to the ground.

“We’ll have to put patient litter on the floor before placing them on beds,” she said to the captain, who explained that, as a medical staging area, the beds would be holding inpatients, not ambulatory patients, and that they would simply transfer the patient to the bed with a “sheet swap.”

The Airmen expressed concerns about IV stands tearing the CP lining until an Air Force civilian explained there would be padding for the IVs.

The Airmen practiced maneuvering a patient litter, using a four-person team or a two-wheeled medical around the bays and through the TK2’s air lock, looking for both choke points and the best ways to maneuver. 

When the medical personnel were not setting up or breaking down elements of the tents, they discussed challenges and solutions such as operating the facility in a dirty environment, using the air lock, and if the outside generator failed.

“What if we don’t own the airspace?” asked Chief Master Sergeant Curtis Miller, the superintendent of Medical Logistics, “What if we have to survive in here for 30 days?”

Miller wanted his Airmen to think about the next possible theater of war which could involve a chemical environmental situation.

ERPSS Airmen first tested the TK2 at Travis AFB back in October 2018 creating concerns about sagging liners, patient backlog at the air lock, and IV stands poking through the liners. The test at Camp Bullis put those concerns to rest.

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