A wounded serviceman is carried off a medical transport plane at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, MD. Photograph by Melissa Golden
After military service members are wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan, their first stop in the United States is Andrews Air Force Base, home to the 779th Medical Group Aeromedical Staging Facility. About 100 patients come through this combination airport and medical treatment center every week.
Upon arrival, patients are greeted by members of the Red Cross, who offer them a beverage and show those staying at the ASF to their rooms. (For some, this is only the first stop before heading to another facility, or back home.) The patients’ arrival at Andrews also marks the first chance in days for a hot shower, a sound night’s sleep, and a hot meal—T-bone steaks, fried chicken, and sweet tea are on the menu.
Combat troops usually arrive here 72 hours after being wounded. In the first Gulf War it took ten days, and the average journey during the Vietnam War took three weeks. The Andrews ASF is the primary East Coast hub for all medical evacuation aircraft bringing sick and injured patients from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, making it the busiest such hub in the United States.