By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The most recent group of High-Altitude Airdrop Mission Support students completed their course’s final flight Oct. 21 from Little Rock Air Force Base and to add to the intensity of their mission the final flight is always under a blanket of stars.
HAAMS physiology technicians are required to fly aboard unpressurized missions above 20,000 feet. Their services are vital to aircrews executing at high altitude by combating the effects of altitude threats such as hypoxia, decompression sickness and trapped gases that could affect mission success.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Stout, 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron High Altitude Airdrop Mission Support center director, is responsible for training and equipping his team to go out the door and support operations around the globe.
Although the students flew on four daytime sorties to hone their techniques, this final test under low-light conditions could cause breathless anxiety for the novice.
“Everything is a little more difficult when you don’t have a whole lot of lighting,” Stout said. “We are visual creatures, so when we don’t have our eyes to give us 100 percent of our information, we have to rely on other things -- a lot of things will be done by feel.”
During these scenarios, the trainees learned to recognize and communicate with jumpers via hand signals to correct issues quickly. This allows jumpmasters to re-inspect them and continue their mission.
“Once they are on the road, they will probably see more nighttime missions than daytime missions, because that’s the way most of our special operations work; so we have to get used to working in that type of environment,” Stout said.
During previous training missions, there were a large number of jumpers on the aircraft, crowding the cargo area and making it more difficult for the students to move. The events challenge trainees to quickly and correctly assess jumpers’ gear in a busy, cramped workspace.
There is zero time to waste during special operations missions, said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kristopher Meadows, 19th AMDS HAAMS technician.
“The most difficult part of HAAMS is being able to complete all of the recommended tasks in a time efficient manner,” Meadows said. “The final flight went better than expected. It allowed us to put all of our new-found knowledge and training into action.”