BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The transition from the Craig Joint Theater Hospital to home is made easier for wounded warriors with the help of the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility here.
Once a patient is in stable condition after receiving care at the CJTH, they are brought to the CASF where they remain under medical attention while they wait for aeromedical evacuation.
Since AE missions leave Bagram several times each week, most patients depart the CASF within 72 hours or their arrival there.
“I enjoy getting to talk with the patients, hearing their stories,” said Senior Airman Carl Engelke, CASF medical technician. “It’s hard because you connect with them and then they leave, but it’s for the best.”
“I’m surprised when I see some of the injuries people have, but they are still in good spirits,” said Airman Engelke, who is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. while recalling an Army major with patches on both eyes, who may never be able to see again, but still joked with the CASF staff.
Working in the CASF also allows Airman Engelke to work closely with the AE system, something he’d never done at his home station.
“I feel like I’m also learning a new job, working with the aeromedical evacuation crews,” said Airman Engelke. “It’s especially great to see the critical care teams,” who are responsible for taking care of the most severely injured patients.
Due to the joint environment of Bagram, Airman Engelke has the opportunity to work with members of the other services and foreign armed forces as well.
“I’ve learned a lot by working with different military branches,” he said, further commenting that the team he’s a part of is full of well-trained, smart and motivated people who do the best job they can.
When the CASF is not working with patients, they help with local Afghan citizens.
Twice a week, the CASF team drives a bus to a nearby Egyptian Field Hospital to offer free healthcare.
While Airman Engelke is stationed at Travis AFB, he works at the McClellan Outpatient Clinic, which he said is far different from working at the CASF.
“If I could be anywhere in the mission, I would be here because I couldn’t contribute more than what I do here,” he said.