After a week of classroom training, during MEDLITE 11, U.S. service members, along with members of the Democratic Republic of the Congo armed forces quick-response force, or UMIR, began training May 2 here on a C-130 Hercules.
Relocating from the Centre Superior Militaire Academy to a Congolese air force base next to N'Djili International Airport, the UMIR members began the final phase of their hands-on training before a mass-casualty exercise scheduled for May 4.
"The main goal is to get the UMIR to be able to safely aeromedical evacuate their patients from one area of need to the next," said 1st Lt. Jodi Smith, a flight nurse with the Wyoming Air National Guard's 187th Airlift Wing.
"We want to be able to see them go from just patient care to being able to bring them onto the plane and be just as knowledgeable on the plane as they are on the ground," she said.
Today's training revolved around getting the UMIR members informed and comfortable with the ground rules and safety procedures in and around a C-130, Lieutenant Smith said.
The UMIR members have not had the opportunity to work on or around a plane at all, so this is where they must learn the basics, she said.
Those basics included aircraft and flightline safety, aircraft capabilities, aircraft configuration and aircraft familiarization both inside and out.
"We are starting the practical part of the exercise now and seeing the plane for the first time," said Capt. Kawaya Tshipamba, a squad leader for an emergency evacuation medical team.
Captain Tshipamba said the training will help him and the UMIR members understand the aspects of the plane and prepare them for what they must do for the May 4 finale.
"Today, I have found many interesting characteristics about the plane that I had not thought about," he said. "The additional stress of flight, especially air pressures that may be experienced while flying, is something very interesting that I learned last week and was able to visualize today."
With temperatures near the 90-degree mark and no air conditioning in the hangar, the UMIR students still paid close attention to U.S. instructors in preparation for the exercise.
"They are still very receptive and are asking lots of good questions," said Staff Sgt. Amber Weaver, an aeromedical evacuation technician with the Wyoming ANG's 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
Sergeant Weaver, who taught the aircraft-capabilities portion of the training, said she has enjoyed the chance to share her experience from both her military and civilian life and that the UMIR members have set a good road map for success in the their future of aeromedical evacuation.
With only 2.6 percent of their gross domestic product going to the military, the DRC only has four fixed wing aircraft in their arsenal, according to Jane's World Air Force, which is an analytical reference resource for the world's air forces.
After spending time with members of the UMIR, aeromedical evacuation is something Lt. Col. Matt Peterson, the director of operations for MEDLITE 11 and the director of operations for the Minnesota ANG's 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, can see as a possibility in the near future for the DRC.
"They have been great to work with, and their level of medical knowledge is quite extensive ... but from an aeromedical evacuation standpoint, they're at a basic level," he said.
"But they are learning quickly, and I think before too long, we'll see them with airplanes and moving patients," Colonel Peterson said.