The ash spewing from the Icelandic volcano prompted Air Forces Central to temporarily designate Joint Base Balad, Iraq, as the aeromedical hub for medical evacuations from Afghanistan, changing the air routes that normally would have taken aeromedical aircraft to Germany. Brig. Gen. Steven Kwast, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, explained in a video teleconference with reporters Tuesday that some wounded are being flown directly back to Andrews AFB, Md., but others require more stabilization first. He said that medical professionals in “a triage decision-making process … [are] making the call.” Kwast also acknowledged that the volcanic ash had affected inbound transport to Afghanistan, but, he said, “we make sure those things we absolutely, positively have to have here, we get here.” And, Kwast added, “We make a plan to ensure we make up for that loss over the long run.” (Also see Balad report by A1C Allison Boehm)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.