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Calif. Airborne Unit Prepped For Florence-Hit Areas Offers Hospital-Grade Critical Care

SOLANO COUNTY (CBS13) — Military personnel at Travis Air Force Base are on standby bracing for Hurricane Florence. Critical care teams are packing up supplies and preparing to head to the East Coast should disaster make landfall.

"If we get that call, in two hours I could be on an airplane," said Natalie Korona, the Critical Care Air Transport Coordinator at the David Grant USAF Medical Center.

Roughly 30 people are on call, ready to help out with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. And even though the eye of the storm is 3,000 miles away, airmen from California have a vital role to play if the federal government asks for help.

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Korona, a critical care nurse, explained that along with a doctor and respiratory therapist, her team of three is trained to treat patients in the most dire of circumstances.

"Whatever you see in a critical care unit in a hospital, we can do that in the air," Korona said.

Prior to working at Travis, she worked in Germany, transporting and treating soldiers wounded in the Middle East. And because the David Grant USAF Medical Center is the largest Air Force hospital in the country, it has the staff to help out if Hurricane Florence creates the need.

"We take our stuff with us and we can build it where we need it," she told CBS13. "We can help get the sickest of the sick out into a safe environment."

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But the medics aren't the only ones with one foot out of the door.

"A lot of people don't think about the infrastructure of how to get all of that aid in there once that hurricane does pass," said Lyndsey Horn, Captain and Chief of Public Affairs at Travis Air Force Base.

Travis AFB has one of just two contingency response wings in the country; the other is in New Jersey. The contingency teams are responsible for carving out landing strips for emergency personnel.

"The unsung hero is your mobility force," she said.

During Hurricane Maria, teams from Travis cleaned up an old Navy base in Puerto Rico.

"They went in, opened it up and started bringing in large C-17 cargo aircraft," Horn said. "Now you had some of the largest aircraft in the world flying in there to get aid to the people that needed it."

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And they're ready to do it again if necessary.

"The hardest part of the whole mission is probably leaving your family at home and being ready all the time to go," Korona said. "It's a passion that we have to be able to take care of anybody at any time when we're needed."

Part of the contingency response team is already on the ground in Florida preparing to set up an air operations center if necessary.

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