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Ambulance services drive, strive to keep you alive

Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight, drives an ambulance at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. Ambulance services Airmen are on call 24 hours a day and are trained to respond to incidents with minimal delay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight, drives an ambulance at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. Ambulance services Airmen are on call 24 hours a day and are trained to respond to incidents with minimal delay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, a 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technician, drives an ambulance around Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. The 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight responds to emergencies as fast as possible to ensure patients can be treated and transported to a hospital if necessary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, a 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technician, drives an ambulance around Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. The 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight responds to emergencies as fast as possible to ensure patients can be treated and transported to a hospital if necessary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight, responds to a call at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. Ambulance services Airmen are on call 24 hours a day and are trained to respond to incidents with minimal delay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight, responds to a call at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. Ambulance services Airmen are on call 24 hours a day and are trained to respond to incidents with minimal delay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Airman 1st Class Kayla Descamps and Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technicians, practice strapping Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the ambulance services flight, to a stretcher at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. The 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight brings a lot of gear with them on calls so they can deal with a wide variety of situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Airman 1st Class Kayla Descamps and Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technicians, practice strapping Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the ambulance services flight, to a stretcher at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. The 28th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services flight brings a lot of gear with them on calls so they can deal with a wide variety of situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, a 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technician, practices placing head blockers on Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the ambulance services flight at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. Aerospace medical technicians go through a 98-day course that prepares them for the stresses and responsibilities of serving in ambulance services. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, a 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technician, practices placing head blockers on Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the ambulance services flight at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 10, 2018. Aerospace medical technicians go through a 98-day course that prepares them for the stresses and responsibilities of serving in ambulance services. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- No matter the season, time or weather, a familiar sound can be heard from every corner of the base during an emergency – the wailing of an ambulance’s sirens en route to save a life or heal wounds.

“We respond everywhere on base and to a radar tower off base,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Glowth, a 28th Medical Group aerospace medical technician. “We go where we are needed, including the flight line.”
When a patient is in need of medical attention, even a small base can be treacherous to travel across for an ambulance.

“Our largest priority is our response time,” Growth said. “If we get a call, we try to be there in three minutes or less. Sometimes cars don’t move out of our way, so we have to [find a better route] and do what we need to get to the patient’s location and do our jobs.”

Before ambulance services Airmen arrive on station, they complete 98 days of rigorous training to prepare them for the job.

“We go through a long technical training course, and it can be a little stressful,” said Tech. Sgt. Ricky Dunbar, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the ambulance services flight. “We have to be ready for anything, and the course prepares us to handle those tough situations.”

Whether the call involves a minor injury or an aircraft coming in on an emergency landing, the ambulance services flight has to be ready to jump into action. Though the calls are usually routine, the flight still has to be on edge and ready for anything.

“This job is definitely exciting,” said Airman 1st Class Kayla Descamps, a 28th MDG aerospace medical technician. “We go to a call and immediately get to work. We check vitals, assess the patient and [see] what we can do for them. We deal with broken limbs and injuries more than anything else.”

Being an emergency medical technician at any northern-tier base means extreme cold can be an issue. In fact, Dunbar’s first call at Ellsworth Air Force Base was to address a weather related injury: frost bite. He recalled the exhilaration he felt as he worked through his stress to save the patient.

Ambulance services Airmen have to gear up when responding to a call because not having the right equipment could mean the difference between a life or death scenario.

“We bring a lot of things with us when we go out,” Decamps said. “We bring a gurney to safely carry patients from the scene to the ambulance and off again. We also carry oxygen … burn kits, bandage, gauze and a lot more stuff we might need.”

If the ambulance has to go to a scene where there’s a potentially dangerous situation, medical personnel work with other organizations on base to ensure everyone’s safety.

“We rely on security forces to help us out if we need it,” Decamps said. “If there are firearms on scene, we need them to ensure the area is clear before we can come in. They are very important to our operation.”

Serving in ambulatory care gives the Airmen a unique opportunity to meet and work with many individuals outside of their career field.

“My favorite part about this job is working with other organizations,” Glowth said. “We get to train with them and practice our emergency medical technician skills side by side with them and we build camaraderie with the other people we work with.”

For these Airmen, working with ambulance services gives them a purpose. Whether they’re responding to a broken leg or even a potential biological hazard, their work is an important and vital asset to Airmen at Ellsworth AFB and the mission at hand.

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