MacDill AFB squadron rescuing hospital patients from Caribbean island

Tampa-based squadron flying patients to US

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The people of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands are getting help from the US Air Force.

Rescue missions are being launched from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to St. Croix, and other islands could get help soon as well.

The priority so far for the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron has been people with serious medical conditions, like people with kidney disease who are on dialysis. 

Even before the most recent trip to St. Croix returned, a crew on MacDill AFB was preparing for their next trip of bringing hospital patients to mainland U.S.

"The sense of urgency was there. They wanted patients on the aircraft as soon as we landed so they can get them out and then get new patients to come in from the hospital," explains Major Gavril Goodman, a medevac nurse who went along to Saint Croix on what turned out to be the largest ever humanitarian transport of patients by the U.S. Air Force.

34 patients, and a total of 63 people including family members of the sick, were rushed out of the hospital and on to the C-17 plane.

They also delivered supplies, like fuel and food.

There have been three flights to Saint Croix by the squadron since Saturday, with more expected over the next several days.

The rescue missions are made up of mostly active duty service members stationed in Florida and South Carolina.

Many of the dialysis patients and their families are also hurricane victims, and tell the U.S. Air Force they lost their home, furniture, and family photos. Still, rescue members say the patients have expressed gratitude and relief for the urgent help and care.

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