To ensure the mission at Luke Air Force Base is successful, it is not only critical to take care of the aircraft, but also the Airmen who fly and control them every day.
Airmen with the 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron are responsible for ensuring all aviation-associated personnel are taken care of medically.
“We are responsible for reviewing all the duty limiting conditions on base as well as making sure all the pilots are healthy and fit to fly aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Charles Pickett, 56th AMDS independent duty medical technician. “We also take care of air traffic controllers and weapons directors.”
Personnel go to the clinic for an array of reasons which include obtaining approval to return to flying status, being temporarily removed from flying status because of certain medications or medical conditions or because they need to get an off-base referral, said Airman 1st Class Steven Berta, 56th AMDS aerospace medicine technician journeyman.
Although small, the clinic is equipped to handle a plethora of medical concerns and issues.
The clinic staff is capable of doing minor surgeries including removal of moles, cysts and treatment of second degree burns, Pickett said.
It is staffed with four flight surgeons who are trained to meet the medical needs of pilots and their family members.
“To fully understand what a pilot goes through physically during a flight, flight surgeons are required to go on familiarization flights at least once a week,” Berta said. “These flights vary from basic fighter maneuvers and regular ground sorties to air-to-ground sorties.”
Flight medicine also plays a vital role when an incident occurs requiring personnel to receive emergency medical attention.
“When an aircraft crashes, for example, we are responsible for taking care of the medical investigation piece and to make sure everyone involved in the incident is in good health,” Pickett said. “We run medical exams on each person and investigate any medical issues that may have come from the incident.”
The Airmen in flight medicine take pride in what they do, Pickett said.
“What differentiates us from other areas of medical is we have the opportunity to get to know the person not only medically but personally because we have a smaller number of patients,” Pickett said.
“We know their call signs, spouses and children just as much as we know what medications they should and should not be taking. We try our best to take care of as much of their medical needs in-house as possible.”
Flight medicine personnel are responsible for taking care of the health of approximately 1,200 Airmen, their spouses and children.
“We are vital to Luke’s mission because we keep the pilots, controllers and all other personnel healthy,” Pickett said. “It is our duty to educate pilots on ways to prevent physiological events that may cause an aircraft mishap due to medical issues.”