Aerospace Medics Look After Team Moody

Senior Airman Rachel Coates

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

When asked what a flight surgeon is, some may describe a doctor who specializes in medicine specifically for pilots. However, their career cannot be defined by only one practice.

Flight surgeons assigned to the 23rd Medical Group provide a multitude of services, such as educating patients on preventive medicine activities, assessing living and working environments to ensure healthy communities, and, of course, providing primary medical care for flyers.

“A lot of what we do affects the base as a whole,” said Maj. Jeremy Berger, 23rd Medical Group chief of aerospace medicine. “We’re good at being subject matter experts on health and wellness and being a liaison for units.”

Berger explained one aspect of their job as preventive medicine professionals is working with programs on base that provide Airmen with resources to maintain their health and fitness.

Physical activity goes a long way to staying healthy and ready to fight Berger expressed. The health promotion department conducts fun runs, helps with tobacco cessation and gives fitness tips.

Other resources provide health education and control measures for preventable diseases and injuries as well as guidance on nutrition, food service sanitation, water supply safety, sewage and waste disposal, immunizations, and more.

“We work with Public Health to conduct food and water vulnerability assessments to make sure we prevent anyone from ingesting something they shouldn’t,” Berger said. “It’s really important we get ahead of things by researching and investigating potential health hazards.”

Another part of a flight surgeon’s job is to support occupational medicine by conducting shop inspections for aerospace-based units – making sure they are following Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

“We go to different shops that have exposure to things like aircraft metals,” said Capt. Matthew Monte, 23rd MDG flight surgeon. “We’re making sure everyone is wearing their personal protective equipment and keeping the area clean.”

When at a higher level of exposure, Airmen may develop long-term health issues if they are not wearing protective gear and following strict procedures implemented for their line of work.

Flight surgeons also examine personnel to determine fitness for aircrew and special duty operators to recommend continuance, removal or return to flying status and aviation service.

Both Berger and Monte explained that to help determine a flyer’s status, the doctors themselves are expected to complete extensive training and programs. They maintain their own flight hours to better understand the occupational stressors that may affect flyers physically.

“For example, we have the centrifuge chamber, that simulates high G-Forces that a lot of pilots encounter,” Monte said. “We really get to experience what they physiologically go through.”

Because of that, the flight surgeons will be able to understand the physical and mental toll that may wear on flyers, and in turn, be better equipped to evaluate members on flying status.

“We’re making sure everyone is fit to do the mission,” Monte said. “It’s not pleasant to have to pull someone from flying for a period of time, but it’s important if that’s what is needed for the wellbeing of the patient and the mission.”

So, while flight surgeons do focus on aircrew and pilots, is in fact true that what they actually offer impacts people far outside of just the flying program. They are imperative to keeping Moody fit to fight and ensuring everyday mission success.