Much has changed in the tactics and technology used in the defense of our nation.
But one thing has remained constant from the day the first soldier fell in the Revolutionary War. Injured military personnel are removed from the battlefield and entitled to the best medical care, as soon as possible.
Today, the U.S. Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation System plays a major role in that effort. Since the end of the Cold War, when downsizing reduced the military’s forward medical presence, Air Force evacuation teams have become essential to transporting injured personnel and providing care to patients to and between advanced treatment facilities.
The squadrons, spread all over the world, include Air Force active-duty units and those that operate as part of the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. Last week, we learned that the Air Force is considering Rosecrans Memorial Airport for an Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves and Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley submitted a letter to Air Force Acting Secretary Matthew P. Donovan in August, voicing strong support for the squadron’s location at Rosecrans, the home of the 139th Airlift Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard.
“I’m thrilled they’ve made it through the first round, and I know the impeccable credentials of the 139th Airlift Wing make it incredibly competitive to secure this squadron,” Graves said.
St. Joseph’s central location might factor into the decision to advance Rosecrans to the next round of consideration for this evacuation squadron. We believe there are other issues that also put the Air Guard base in a favorable light: the proven record and capability of the 139th, Missouri Western State University’s successful nursing program and the considerable effort being put into modernizing Rosecrans and protecting it from the risk of flooding.
The flood of 1993 brought images of planes partially submerged in Missouri River water. It’s not the kind of image the Air Force brass would want to see.
Since then, local and federal resources have been used to begin executing a master plan to move the base facilities to less flood-prone areas north of the current civilian facilities at Rosecrans. This north campus includes a new security building, the 241st Air Traffic Control Squadron headquarters, a fire station and an emergency medical services building.
A long-delayed $70 million levee improvement project promises to further solidify the future of the Air Guard, which contributes more than $200 million in economic activity a year, according to the 139th Airlift Wing annual report.
The possibility of an evacuation squadron is proof that these investments benefit our nation’s security and the economy of St. Joseph.