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EMEDS team deploys to support hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico

  • Published
  • By Emerald Ralston
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
As Puerto Rico continues to reel from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, Air Combat Command deployed medical assets Oct. 18, 2017, to provide relief to the community and supplement teams that have already begun relief efforts.

The 633rd Medical Group from Joint Base Langley-Eustis has one of the Air Force’s four Expeditionary Medical Support groups. They train year round to ensure they’re ready and able to deploy in the event of a disaster like the one facing Puerto Rico.

“We have the honor of having the EMEDS capability here at the (JB Langley-Eustis) hospital,” said Col. Mark Nassir, 633rd MDG commander. “We rotate call so we have a 72-hour on-call response time for any contingency or humanitarian need across the world. When we’re called to, we can deploy our team out to take care of patients’ medical and surgical needs.”

The EMEDS capability includes a pre-planned set of equipment, personnel and medical materials.

“We have certain types of physicians, nursing staff and other medical ancillary staff ready to go,” said Dr. (Capt.) Prabu Selvam, 633rd MDG emergency room doctor. “We also have a set of equipment we go down with and a style of setting up patient care tents. We’ll be treating whatever comes to us and ready for whatever we have to face.”

The team will be working with other agencies, services and teams in Puerto Rico.

“We’re going down to help provide support to (Federal Emergency Management Agency), medical capability support for the people that have been impacted by the hurricane as well as our military partners that are currently there. We’ll also be providing humanitarian relief,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Wampler, 633rd MDG 4N functional manager. “We are prepared for austere conditions, we do know that right now some of the areas we’re in don’t have power, they’re just now getting water capability, and we’re still trying to put up our tents to provide medical care.”

The team is prepared to be in Puerto Rico for at least 30 days, and ultimately as long as their support is needed to mitigate the suffering taking place there.

“Seeing what we see on TV, it’s pretty frustrating that there are so many people suffering there and you feel sort of helpless, but as a military we’re not helpless,” said Selvam. “We have a lot of resources and great people so we’re going to go down there and help the best we can.”

Despite the conditions the team is walking into, many team members expressed an eagerness to be of assistance.

“I’m very excited to go,” said Capt. Petra Holloway, an operating room nurse. “This is us helping out Americans; these are our people. This is one of the biggest things we sign up to do as military, to wear the uniform and help people in need.”

Nassir echoed this sentiment, adding that this is a core function of the mission at their hospital.

“Our job is to make sure the forces are ready to deploy, make sure we are ready medics and provide trusted health care to all we serve,” he said. “Our hearts go out to all the people in Puerto Rico that are struggling. It’s just an honor to be able to serve in military medicine and an honor to support when called upon to do so.”