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Wounded Warrior
My brother ain’t heavy
Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, GERMANY--Five 177th Airmen were on special assignment during their Germany annual training.

Master Sgt. Harry Waugh, Tech. Sgts. Melissa Blackledge and Marie Paggi, along with Staff Sgts. Chantel Bullock and Valerie Chiola were assigned to the Contingency Aerospace Staging Facility or CASF.

“The CASF is responsible for transporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom wounded warriors from the flightline to the hospital then to the flightline when they are sent back to the United States,” said Senior Airman Liam Velez, a CASF medical technician assigned to the 86th Medical Group.

More than 65,000 wounded Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines have passed through Ramstein.

Tech. Sgts. Marie Paggi, left, and Melissa Blackledge, second from left, along with Master Sgt. Harry Waugh, second from right, and Staff Sgt. Valerie Chiola, right, all with the 177th Medical Group, receive a lesson on patient movement from Senior Airman Liam Velez, on stretcher, a CASF medical technician assigned to the 86th Medical Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

In the morning Waugh, Blackledge, Paggi, Bullock and Chiola were prepared for their duties by undergoing refresher training transporting volunteers around on stretchers.

While all this may seem basic – lifting, moving and loading, it has a direct impact on those being transported.

That training was tested at noon when the 177th Airmen were assigned to moving a group of wounded warriors.

The 177th team moved the injured warriors from the CASF building to a bus specially designed to carry stretcher-borne patients. They were then driven to the Ramstein flightline where they were loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III attached to the 172nd Airlift Wing, Mississippi Air National Guard.

The 177th Airmen joined active-duty Air Force and Marines in lifting and carrying the wounded warriors from the bus and onto the aircraft.

“It was an honor to help get the wounded home,” said Waugh.

Afterwards the entire CASF team got together at the bottom of the C-17 to give a cheer for the warriors.

“This is a real world event, it was exciting,” said Chiola. “It’s not just another exercise.”

Master Sgt. James McCloskey, left, helps lift a patient on board a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft. McCloskey was part of the second team to work at the CASF during the deployment.

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Volume 34 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2009 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs