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C-17 crew races time in Iraq-to-Texas run

#1
C-17 crew races time in Iraq-to-Texas run

By Jessica Johnson - The (Charleston) Post and Courier via The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Feb 11, 2007 13:47:40 EST

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A Marine was down in Iraq, his Humvee bombed. The blast burned his face and hands, and shrapnel tore his right leg and eye. He needed help fast, and medics said only one hospital could take care of his injuries, and it’s in Texas.

What happened next to Lance Cpl. Justin Ping showed the lengths the military will go to save one soldier.

Capt. Adam Bingham, a C-17 pilot based in Charleston, said it was about a month into the 14th Airlift Squadron’s deployment to Southwest Asia when he and other crew members learned they might need to fly a Marine 7,500 miles from Balad Air Base in Iraq to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

“I didn’t think much of it,” Bingham said. Patients either improve or become worse, sometimes dying in Iraq. And the details were sketchy.

Ping was riding through Fallujah on Sept. 28 when an explosive device triggered, burning and showering him with shrapnel. Army forces moved Ping from the Fallujah scene to Balad Air Base where Navy doctors stabilized him. The 20-year-old was ready for transport.

Around midnight, the 14th Airlift Squadron received word that the flight was a go. The mission included taking a near nosedive landing into Balad Air Base to avoid potential fire, transforming a C-17 into an emergency room, and an in-flight refueling to avoid a second landing.

A team of doctors monitored Ping during the 16-hour flight. The Marine was unconscious most of the flight, but he came to twice. Pilots walked to the cargo hold to thank him for his service.

“He really couldn’t talk back,” Bingham said. “I told him we were going to get him to a better place and that we were glad he was with us.”

In the air, Ping remained stable, but his right eye was in danger. Pilots tried to go faster, asking for a direct route through European air space, explaining their medical mission. But a controller responded, “Unable.”

It wasn’t that foreign controllers were rude, said 1st Lt. Michael Campbell, a Charleston Air Force pilot. “They just weren’t going out of their way to find a way.”

Above England at 26,000 feet, Capt. Charles “Spanky” Gilliam met a tanker successfully, taking on 110,000 pounds of fuel. With burns to 20 percent of his body, Ping could not survive two pressurization schedules. If the fueling would have failed, so would the mission.

Again they asked for a direct path and controllers responded, “Not at this time.”

Pilots repeated the request for a direct route once they reached American air space and explained their medical emergency. And the controller responded they could have whatever they needed.

“You could hear the emotion in the controller’s voice when he found out,” Campbell said. “You could just tell he really cared as opposed to what we heard the whole way.”

Pilots said it was an emotional moment. “There was an American spirit there that we will do whatever it takes for another American, and that’s a great thing,” Bingham said.

Ping was in San Antonio within 30 hours of his injury, which is almost unheard of, said Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of Air Mobility. Normally, it takes three days to transfer a wounded soldier from Iraq to America.

As the careers of the C-17 crew progress, the story will be one they tell every crew they fly with and every organization they end up leading, Gilliam said.

“We will tell this story to let everyone know how great a military and how great an Air Force we serve in,” Gilliam said. “It’s just one of those missions.”

Gen. McNabb, based at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., retold their story Friday during the 2007 Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Bingham and Ping reunited at the symposium.

Bingham said he wanted to see Ping again because he was touched by the young Marine’s attitude when he phoned him just before the holidays. The soldier seemed more worried about the men overseas than his injuries.

“He had been through a lot and his mind was still on his fellow soldiers,” Bingham said.

Ping said from his Orlando hotel room that he appreciates that the military did so much just for one person. “I’m extremely grateful,” Ping said. “I wasn’t all that aware when it happened, but when I look back on it, I realize it was quite a feat to get me back here as soon as they did.”

Ping’s right arm, which was severely damaged in the blast, has healed better than doctors expected. The Washington state native has nearly full range of motion and can move all his fingers.

Doctors saved Ping’s right eye but ultimately could not save the retina. Despite flawed vision, Ping remains in positive spirits. His left eye is fine and his burns have healed.

“It’s not so bad,” he said. “It could have been a whole lot worse.”
 
#3
Had they taken the direct overflights without permission, would they have been attacked, forced down or just got bollo*ked?
Damn fine performance anyway. Makes up for a couple of A10 cowboys in my estimation
 
#6
I hope that L/Cpl Ping continues to make a good recovery, and well done to the crew and medics.

However, If he needed urgent hospital care, why not fly him to Germany?
 
#8
I suspect that there is a little more to this than the perceived lack of capability of the American military hospital in Germany. In particular, the role of Gen. McNabb, who is quoted in the recent news report;

On 26 Sep 2006, General Duncan McNabb, commander of Air Mobility Command, made a speech at the Air Force Association's 2006 Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington. He said, “In the past, the Air Force used dedicated aircraft to move injured people out of theatre. Today, special support pallets are used for patients. Those pallets can be loaded on any available aircraft that is headed home. That increased flexibility has improved the chances that injured personnel will survive. Now we get them to the doctor or a facility, maybe the only place in the world where you can save their lives.” (my bold)

On 27 Sep 2006 these comments were reported on the official website of the American Air Force;

On 28 Sep 2006 L/Cpl Ping was unfortunately injured…

I am sure that these timings are purely coincidental.

I understand that Gen. McNabb has been successful in getting a larger budget for such aircraft.

http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123027940


ADDED:

I think that the most unsavoury part of this whole episode was the medical package provided to L/Cpl Ping. The official news report said that the aircraft needed to speed-up on route, hinting at a deteriorating eye condition. One wonders if this brave Marine had been sent to Germany as normal, would he have been in an American hospital when his condition took a turn for the worse?

What do you think Trip?

http://soldiersangelsgermany.blogspot.com/2005/07/about-medical-evacuations-to-germany.html
 
#9
Trip,

You’ve obviously been too busy to follow-up on this thread. However, on a related subject, do you think that General McNabb’s latest toys will ever be used for medical evacuations from Iraq?

The first of six 737 (C-40C) transport planes - costing US$70m each - was recently handed over at the Scott Air Force Base. Each of the (110 feet long) aircraft will usually be configured as 42-seaters and are designed to transport dignitaries such as Laura Bush.

C-40C news
 
#10
Would be nice if our Air Force had a story like this come out; they need it.

Am sure they could have taken a direct route over France - 50% odds their air traffic control were on strike anyway...

Hope the lad continues to recover
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
#11
Good work, but I find it very hard to believe that there was not one single eye hospital in Germany/UK that could not have carried out the same treatment.
 
#13
Yes very well done to all involved. Rather embarrassed about the poor show put on by euro ATC though, definitely could do better. In fact I'm going to go an post it on the Pprune ATC forum and see what they have to say for themselves.
 
#14
OldRedCap said:
Had they taken the direct overflights without permission, would they have been attacked, forced down or just got bollo*ked?
More like a head on or very near miss. UK air space is very crowded.

If they had all this time for a refit

Around midnight, the 14th Airlift Squadron received word that the flight was a go. The mission included taking a near nosedive landing into Balad Air Base to avoid potential fire, transforming a C-17 into an emergency room, and an in-flight refueling to avoid a second landing.
Why did they not clear a route before hand? This looks more like a dig at France.

 
#15
Crabby,

Would be nice if our Air Force had a story like this come out; they need it.
You may wish to chat to some of the MND(SE) Force Support medics. There have been several incidences over recent months where injured personnel have been saved by rapid movement to Balad/Ramstein/Birmingham via RAF AT. Given the current C-130 flying rate in Iraq, this inevitably involves ignoring the crew duty rules that we allegedly stick so inflexibly to. Likewise Iraqi IRT is predominantly carried out by RAF Merlin with RAF Medical teams.

As far as what would have happened if the C-17 had deviated from cleared routing, in this post 9/11 he would have been intercepted by QRA assets if he had been over the majority of European nations.

MM
 
#16
Very moving and splendid story of the well known "can do" attitude.

Bit heavy on the pathos but that is US reporting for you, one thing that did make me wonder though is the bit about "Above England at 26,000 feet, Capt. Charles “Spanky” Gilliam met a tanker successfully, taking on 110,000 pounds of fuel."

this means that they must have flown almost directly over Moorfields eye hospital.
The hospital is the oldest and largest eye hospital in the world and is internationally renowned for its comprehensive clinical and research activities.
But I suppose that "only one hospital could take care of his injuries, and it’s in Texas" must be something really special.
 
#17
Magic_Mushroom said:
Crabby,

Would be nice if our Air Force had a story like this come out; they need it.
You may wish to chat to some of the MND(SE) Force Support medics. There have been several incidences over recent months where injured personnel have been saved by rapid movement to Balad/Ramstein/Birmingham via RAF AT. Given the current C-130 flying rate in Iraq, this inevitably involves ignoring the crew duty rules that we allegedly stick so inflexibly to. Likewise Iraqi IRT is predominantly carried out by RAF Merlin with RAF Medical teams.

As far as what would have happened if the C-17 had deviated from cleared routing, in this post 9/11 he would have been intercepted by QRA assets if he had been over the majority of European nations.

MM
Please take the tone of my previous voice - I said it would be nice if a story like this CAME OUT, so media attention would be in a positive light, as the RAF has taken a bit of a PR battering recently.
I've no doubt the majority of RAF crew are working their backsides off, especially involving the medical side.
 
#19
crabby said:
Would be nice if our Air Force had a story like this come out; they need it.

Am sure they could have taken a direct route over France - 50% odds their air traffic control were on strike anyway...

Hope the lad continues to recover
No the problem is Mrs. X from Selly Oak will complain that the planes are arriving at different time from normal! LOL
 

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