Brooks Air Force Base 1948 - 1990

School of Aerospace Medicine
Shortly after the close of World War II, the air arm of the U.S. Army became the U.S. Air Force. One of the immediate needs of the USAF was a medical service. Although technology had produced supersonic and stratospheric aircraft, man was the limiting factor in their use. Airmen were subjected to extremes of the environment and to emotional and physical stresses due to the growing complexity of aircraft.

Although the School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph AFB and the Aeromedical Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB were involved in aeromedical research, a single central organization was needed to combine aeromedical research, education, and training along with a clinical facility to care for injured pilots who were at that time scattered among Army hospitals.

The history of the School of Aviation Medicine and the School of Aerospace Medicine parallels the development of aviation medicine. When Sidney ]. Brooks was killed in November 1917, little did anyone realize that his death would be the catalyst for a new specialty in medicine. Lt. Colonel Theodore C. Lyster, the first chief surgeon, Aviation Section, for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, directed the establishment of a medical research board to study the effects of aviation on pilots and the possible medical problems which could result from flying various aircraft. Aviation medicine was born.

The Medical Research Laboratory was opened in 1918 at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York. Its major emphasis was changed from research to education. Physicians, soon called flight surgeons, were trained in aviation medicine. In 1922, the laboratory‘s name was changed to the School of Aviation Medicine. It moved to Brooks Field in 1926 and remained there until 1951, when it moved across town to Randolph Field.

The school continued to train physicians in aviation medicine and did minimal research to support its studies. In 1945, the School of Air Evacuation merged with the school and began an expanded role in teaching aeromedical evacuation concepts to nurses, medical technicians and physicians. With the establishment of the United States Air Force as a separate service in 1947, the focus on aviation medicine as a unique specialty was renewed. Both programs moved to Brooks Air Force Base in 1959.

In 1961, the school was renamed the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine and became part of the Aerospace Medical Center. This action combined aerospace medical research, education and clinical treatment under one center designed to study flight and its effects on the individual, as Well as the various systems which support the crew member while in flight.

Today, the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine is an integral part of Brooks Air Force Base. It is the sole Air Force training institution for the aerospace medicine program, flight nursing, environmental health (military public health), bioenvironmental engineering and aerospace physiology. The school is an internationally recognized educational institution, and participates in training and educational exchanges with many nations.

Flight Nursing
Flight Nursing began as a concept in 1930 when a civilian pilot, flying over a town that had been devastated by a tornado, envisioned moving the sick and injured to medical facilities via airplanes while nurses and technicians cared for them. Lauretta M. Schimmoler formed the Aerial Nurse Corps of America with the purpose of providing trained and qualified personnel to fulfill her vision. It took twelve years before her concept became a reality, as the medical departments of the services and the American Red Cross Would not fully endorse her idea.

Two incidents in january 1942 gave impetus to the development of flight nursing as an on-going entity. The first was the mass movement of sick and wounded soldiers from the Burma-Indochina region to the United States, which prompted Brigadier General David Grant, Air Surgeon for the Army Air Corps, to call for the development of a training school for nurses and technicians.

The second came as a result of a flight from Karachi, India. During this flight, 2Lt. Elsie Ott served as the sole flight nurse on an aircraft loaded with patients that undertook a seven-day mission westward across Arabia, Africa and the southern Atlantic Ocean, to Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. Ott tended her charges with minimal assistance during the flight, and upon completion wrote down her recommendations for future flights. Many of her suggestions remain in place today as vital components of the Aeromedical Evacuation System.

In May 1942, the proposal for a School of Air Evacuation was developed and a call went out for volunteers from the Army Nurse Corps to train in this new nursing speciality. The School of Air Evacuation officially opened in October 1942 at Bowman Field, Kentucky. Two squadrons of nurses and technicians were trained, but due to the need for their expertise in North Africa and the Western Pacific area, they did not graduate. They departed Kentucky on December 25 for their respective areas of assignment. The first official graduation of flight nurses and medical technicians occurred February 14, 1943.

Since 1942, the School of Evacuation has been located at Bowman Field, Kentucky; Randolph Field, Texas; Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama; and Brooks Air Force Base, Texas. More than 11,500 nurses and 7,800 technicians have been trained in the specialty of flight nursing. Additionally, 17 nations have sent nurses and technicians to learn the techniques and skills required to care for patients in the airbome environment. Three nations have developed their own programs using the USAF as a model.

Flight nurses and aeromedical evacuation technicians provide care to the sick and wounded in a variety of aircraft: passenger, cargo, bombers and tankers. During the Korean War, two aeromedical evacuation squadrons were the first Air Force units to be awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation. Flight nurses received their first patients out of Vietnam in 1954, airlifting injured French soldiers to France and Algeria following the fall of Dien Bien Phu. In 1975, flight nurses and medical technicians assisted in returning the Vietnam prisoners of war to the United States. During the most recent conflict, Desert Storm, flight nurses and aeromedical technicians used the Total Force concept, integrating medical crews from the active duty reserve and guard forces. They provided in-flight patient care on three different aircraft in the Theatre of Operations, Europe and the United States.

Flight Nurses and aeromedical evacuation technicians also have given their lives in the performance of their duties. Seventeen nurses and 13- technicians were killed during World II. Three flight nurses were killed during the Korean Conflict. No nurses or technicians were killed during the Vietnam War; however, one nurse and two technicians were killed while airlifting orphans from Saigon during Operation Babylift. One flight nurse was a German prisoner of war in Europe; and 13 nurses and 13 technicians were forced to utilize the skills they learned in survival training when their aircraft crash- landed in Albania and they had to make their way to friendly forces in Italy.

Whether during periods of conflict or peace, natural disaster or individual emergency, flight nurses and aeromedical evacuation technicians have been there to ensure that people receive the best care possible while en route from the battlefield or hospital to a definitive care facility. Their area of responsibility knows no boundaries. as they have moved critically ill infants in the United States and severely burned teenagers from Russia to Texas for expert medical care. The Flight Nurse and Aeromedical Evacuation Technician programs look forward to the 21st century, when they will be able to utilize the latest developments in technology in a vibrant, yet youthful, program that reaches out to those in need while providing the highest patient care in the airborne envinronment.

Aeromedical Evacuation
Legend has it that the first air evacuation of injured soldiers occurred during the Franco-Prussian War, when wounded men were airlifted in hot air balloons from the city of Paris. Whether fact or fiction, this act spurred the imagination of those involved in the development of the airplane.

The first ambulance plane was constructed in 1910, but failed to carry patients, as it crashed on its maiden test flight. The first actual air evacuation of Wounded military personnel took place in April 1918 at Flanders, France, during World War I. At Gerstner Field, Louisiana, in February 1918, Major Nelson Driver and Captain William Ocker converted a Jenny biplane into an air evacuation aircraft. This was done to assist the return of pilots who crashed their planes in locations inaccessible to automobiles. The doctor could fly to the crash site, treat the pilot, and transport him back to a hospital for further care.

Between 1918 and 1930, eight different aircraft were either modified or specifically designed to be air ambulances. These aircraft could carry up to six stretcher patients and/or ambulatory patients depending upon the size and design of the aircraft. Most patients were transported on these aircraft with only the pilot in attendance. Despite this foray into the construction and utilization of airplanes for air evacuation purposes, military authorities did not support large scale use of aircraft for the transportation of the sick and wounded, nor did they assign or develop a cadre of personnel to accompany patients when being transported.

In the 19305, some efforts were made in the civilian community to transport patients via aircraft. Due to the high cost it did not catch on, and with the advent of World War II many aircraft were utilized to support the war effort.

Brigadier General David Grant recognized the need for sick and wounded soldiers to be moved as quickly as possible, with competent medical care being given while they were airborne. So was born the School of Air Evacuation. Grant also conceived the idea of using transport planes, which took supplies, and equipment to the battle areas, to bring patients back from the front for extended care.

During World War II, aeromedical evacuation crews airlifted over one million men from the front lines. General Dwight Eisenhower, following D-Day in Normandy, stated, “We evacuated almost everyone (350,000) from our forward hospitals by air, and it has unquestionably saved hundreds of lives, thousands of lives."

During the Korean War, aeromedical evacuation initially was not used, as ships transported Wounded soldiers from Korea to japan. However, following the airlift of 4,689 casualties over a hazardous five-day period, aeromedical evacuation became the preferred method of moving wounded soldiers from the combat area to hospitals in the rearward area.

In 1954, the first aircraft specifically designed to carry patients was introduced. The Convair C-131A Samaritan was, for all intents and purposes, a flying hospital. It could carry 37 ambulatory or 27 stretcher patients, or any combination of both. It was primarily used to ferry patients between military hospitals in the United States.

The first jet aircraft specifically designed for aeromedical evacuation entered into service on August 10, 1968. Since that time, the C-9A Nightingale has been the mainstay of peacetime aeromedical evacuation in the United States, the Pacific and European Theatres of Operation.

Long-range transport of patients in peacetime has been accomplished using the C-141 Starlifter, While the mainstay of wartime transport has been the C-130 Hercules.

Aeromedical evacuation is not just a Wartime activity. During periods of peace, it is utilized to transport military personnel, dependents, retirees and Department of Defense personnel assigned overseas from small clinics/hospitals to large medical centers for extended and special care. Brooks Air Force Base was the hub of aeromedical evacuation in the 19505 and early 1960s.

Aeromedical evacuation also conducts humanitarian missions to transport individuals from anywhere in the World to medical centers offering specialized care. The recent transport of two severely-burned Russian teenagers from their homeland to Brooke Army Medical Center serves as a shining example of aeromedical evacuation’s commitment to Worldwide transport of the sick and injured, in times of peace, natural disaster or war.
The Space Years
November 21, 1963-The Texas air was crisp and clear at Brooks AFB as 12,000 people gathered to dedicate a new complex of buildings recently added to the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. Tens of thousands lined the way from San Antonio International Airport, cheering as President john F. Kennedy made his way to Brooks to dedicate the new complex. His speech that day would be his last official act as President of the United States. Less than 24 hours later. he was killed by an assassin`s bullets.

President Kennedy’s address to the group gathered in front of the headquarters building of the Aerospace Medical Division was brief, but appropriately keyed to the business at hand - man`s space effort. He praised the pioneers who manned the School of Aerospace Medicine and the Aeromedical Division, noting that these unsung heroes were making history every day.

In concluding his speech, Kennedy stressed the critical need to continue our space effort by quoting from Frank O’Connor, an Irish author. In one of his books, O`Connor tells how, as a boy, he and l1is friends would make their way across the countryside. When they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high for them to scale, they took off their caps and tossed them over the wall. Then they had no choice but to follow them up and over the top.

“This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space-and we have no choice but to follow it...we will climb this wall with safety and with speed-and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side."

President and Mrs. Kennedy left for Fort Worth that afternoon. The next day, November 22, 1965, President Kennedy went to Dallas.
Edward H. Whitell
Edward H. White II was born in San Antonio, Texas. His father, an Air Force general, took him aloft in an old T-8 trainer when Ed was l2. No one ever questioned that the boy would become a flier. He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1952. He earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1959. After attending the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, he was selected as an astronaut by NASA in September 1962.

His great moment came in 1965 when he was selected to pilot the Gemini 4 space mission, a four-day event that began on June 5. This space mission circumnavigated the earth 62 times.

During the third revolution, Ed White opened the hatch while his spacecraft was over the Indian Ocean. He stood in his seat and fired his "zip gun" thruster and became the first American to "walk" in space.

Returning to earth after the successful mission. White said: “I felt so good, I didn`t know whether to hop, skip, jump, or walk on my hands."

Two years later, tragedy took the lives of astronauts Ed White, Roger Chaffee, and Gus Grissom. While preparing for a pre-launch Apollo I mission on January 27, 1967, an electrical spark ignited combustible materials in the pure-oxygen atmosphere of their cabin. The three perished in the fire.

Although space-related endeavors waned at Brooks in the 1970s, some projects continued. Studies were conducted on nuclear survivability, decompression, sustained accelerative forces, cardiographic and other medical data for NASA’s space shuttle system, as well as for other
space research.

In the early 1980’s, Brooks began its Military Space Biotechnology program, using the space shuttle to conduct medical experiments in space. Researchers at Brooks explored the need for crew protection and performance enhancement for men in military space systems. An operating location was established at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to improve coordination with NASA.

Some of the first experiments involved tests in visual functions, since astronauts had noted both increased and decreased ability to see in space. The goal of the tests was to predict vision changes and develop methods to minimize decrements. Also in the 1980’s, a short-arm centrifuge for space application was studied as a method to prevent the physiologic deconditioning of space caused by Weightlessness. The current protective measures employed in the shuttle's extra-vehicular operations evolved directly from 20 years of joint studies by NASA and Brooks personnel on altitude decompression sickness.

Current work at Brooks attempts to develop medical protocols for treatment of exposure to the vacuum of space (ebullism). Beginning in 1991-92, all astronauts were trained for G exposure at Brooks. Additionally, a crew reentry anti-G-suit was developed at Brooks, as were oxygen toxicity studies.

Within a lifetime, the age of aviation was born and brought man to the moon. These achievements were possible with the support of aerospace medicine and the technology developed at Brooks AFB.
Vietnam Force & Modernization
The Vietnam War was an agonizing period in American history. America was not willing to use its full military potential to win the war and its continuation made it increasingly unpopular. American military advisors were already serving in Southeast Asia when the Aerospace Medical Division (AMD) was established at Brooks Air Force Base in 1961. They contributed to the war effort by sending medical teams and dental operating units to the conflict area. Although it might seem odd for a medical division, they were involved in the early development of the gunships used in
Southeast Asia.

The aircraft allowed the pilot to operate rapid-fire guns that pointed out the side of the aircraft. Research for the side-firing Gatling gun was accomplished at AMD’s Aerospace Medical Research laboratory (AMRL) in Dayton, Ohio. When the Seventh Air Force asked for additional body armor protection, they synthesized mission data and wound ballistics and worked with body armor technologists to develop a new flak jacket.

Air evacuation became another significant Brooks contribution. Researchers developed advanced equipment to treat patients aboard aircraft, including therapeutic oxygen systems that provided some humidity for patients with respiratory difficulties. Other inventions were digital electronic thermometers and electronic stethoscopes that could be heard over the noise of aircraft engines. The School of Aerospace Medicine (SAM) aided in the development of the Modular Air Transportable Hospitals. SAM personnel also worked with members of the Army and Navy to develop joint-service prisoner of war medical evaluation forms and procedures.

As the United States began disengagement from Vietnam, it was a time of budget cuts, the Arab oil embargo, inflation and military downsizing. Military money could only go to projects with clearly defined customers that addressed operation problems. Brooks’ research was narrowed from theoretical to applied. Yet, the base and its mission grew with the addition of the USAF Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory (USAFOEHL) in 1976. Over the years, USAFOEHL developed the capability to analyze chemicals in virtually any sub stance. It gave advice concerning the actions and reactions of chemicals and responded to the site of any accidents, including those with the potential for radiation leakage. Additionally, Brooks personnel helped the Air Force's B-1 program by developing its oxygen generating system. Missile systems were also undergoing modernization, and the technical workforce continued its support for the ICBM through its research into the toxicity of missile fuels and ways of detecting leaks before they could injure launch site personnel.
Technology Transition
The Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks Air Force Base was a single point manager for all human centered activities for aircrew effectiveness. Over the years, they enlarged and incorporated those laboratories whose mission was also human- centered. Thus, Brooks embraced the missions of research, teaching, health care, training selection and medical support for crew effectiveness activities. In essence, this technical organization assumed the unique position of surveillance over the field of interest that the original Medical Research laboratory of the Army Signal Corps established and maintained during World War I, and it would involve itself in the much more complex scientific community which had developed since World War Il.

In the early 1980s AMD expanded its mission with the addition of a series of advanced engineering and development programs. Prior to this time, the division developed technology but did not control its programs past their basic research and exploratory development phases.

In addition, the AMD‘s role as the Air Force's human centered advocate was strengthened with the assignment of the Air Force Human Resources laboratory to Brooks in 1985. This laboratory was the principle Air Force organization charged with the sciences and technology for choosing, preparing, and placing people at the heart of Air Force weapons systems and combat capability. Its mission maximized Air Force effectiveness through research and development to enhance the selection, classification, assignment, evaluation and effectiveness of training planning, design, delivery, evaluation, and management; and provided simulators and training devices to improve the effectiveness of aircrews and maintenance personnel.

The laboratory was incorporated with the belief that the Air Force laboratories could more rapidly translate scientific discoveries and technical innovations into engineering solutions and weapons enhancement. The Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks Air Force Base became the free world’s largest concentration of human, life and behavioral science personnel.

By the early 19805 there was a need to develop beyond exploratory research and provide the full spectrum for acquisition of human-centered technologies. Thus an Acquisition Office was developed to act as a bridge between laboratory technology and weapon systems production. By the end of the decade, acquisition mushroomed into 200-plus organizations responsible for advanced development, full-scale engineering development, and procurement of Life Support Systems, Chemical Warfare Defense Systems and other related systems.

To emphasize the importance of its acquisition identity in meeting the human challenges of weapon systems development and operational support, the Aerospace Medical Division changed its name to the Human Systems Division (HSD) in 1987. The same logic was used to realign the program management for the Life Support System Program Office the following year. The System Program Office’s realignment emphasized the importance of human systems advocacy, independent of weapons systems. It also gave the Human Systems Division at Brooks Air Force Base a new and
significant status.
Systems Developed and Tested at Brooks

War and New Challenges

The 1990s ushered in a whole new era. For several years the Department of Defense (DOD) had been looking for better, leaner, smarter and more cost-saving ways to do business. However, this process was intensified with the unexpected collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the demise of the Russian empire. Americans expected a peace dividend, believing the size and cost of the DOD should be reduced. Ironically, as downsizing became the buzz word, Brooks Air Force Base grew - one of four Air Force Super Laboratories, the Armstrong Laboratory, was formed at Brooks. It incorporated four complete labs, the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory, the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory, the Harry G. Armstrong Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, and the Air Force Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory, as well as the laboratory function of the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (AFCEE) also was formed and located at Brooks. This organization has the monumental task of restoring closed installations to their original state and of ensuring that future installations are environmentally safe.

Desert Shield/Storm

On August 2, 1990 troops from Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait in an attempt to annex the oil-rich country. The United States and a coalition of 27 other countries sent in troops that eventually numbered 685,000 When diplomacy failed, action began on January 16, 1991. The war was over the following month, but not before the vast superiority of USAF technology was displayed to the world. The Brooks war effort was expressed in several ways. A major Air Force goal during Desert Storm was to minimize noncombatant casualties. The U.S. Central Command asked the Human Systems Division to estimate the number of possible noncombatant, military targets. Along with contractors, Brooks personnel developed a study of specific weapons, tactics, delivery platforms, rules of engagement and casualties. USAFSAM’s Department of Aerospace Nursing made significant contributions by recognizing the need for specific kinds of training prior to actual war involvement. Brooks sent two groups of flight surgeons and one decontamination team to provide medical support in this Middle East conflict. Additionally, a full security police team was dispatched along with two personnel from the Occupational and Environmental Health Directorate of the Armstrong Laboratory

Brooks was prepared to aid the war effort with a Multi-Man Intermittent Cooling System, various aspects of chemical warfare defense protection, laser eye protection, pilot fatigue studies and other related needs of personnel in combat. Desert Storm gave the Air Force the opportunity to take technology off the shelf, rush it into production and provide for the immediate needs of troops in Saudi Arabia. The Air Force had a need, and the Brooks Air Force Base team responded.

Consolidations continued in 1992 with the merging of the Air Force Systems command and the Air Force Logistics Command into a new organization called the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)_ As part of the new Command, the Human Systems Division at Brooks again changed its name to the Human Systems Center (HSC). Although the Air Force will be smaller, it will be flexible enough to respond, on short notice, to a wide range of regional crises and contingencies. According to AFMC`s first commander, General Ronald W. Yates, “We are a new command with a new culture, stronger than ever, and postured to help Air Force war fighters deliver global reach, global power. ”Without doubt, Brooks Air Force Base will remain an important part of that new culture, and as it has for the past 75 years, will continue to serve the needs of Air Force personnel worldwide. Brooks Air Force Base is looking to the future and is ready to meet all challenges.

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