- By Barrie Barber Staff Writer
Filled with life-like medical mannequins, dark cargo plane fuselages and a centrifuge that spins humans in circles at high speed, the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine is unlike most schools.
One of the biggest prizes gained at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in recent years, the school marked its 100th anniversary in ceremonies Friday.
The $194.5 million school opened in a sprawling new building at Wright-Patterson in 2011 after eight decades in Texas. The move was part of a base realignment and closure process in 2005 that brought about 1,200 jobs to Wright-Patterson. Most of those were in aerospace medicine and sensors research from sites in Texas, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts and New York.
“We’ve been training flight surgeons for 100 years,” said Col. Alden Hilton, the school’s commander. Today, it also educates flight nurses, enlisted aeromedical technicians, and critical care medical teams, among others.
“These medical personnel are already experienced clinicians,” Hilton said. “But it’s very different to practice medicine in the back of an airplane where it’s dark, very, very noisy and vibration and other movements and what you have with you is all that you’ve got.”
The massive school traces its origins to Hazelhurst Field, N.Y., where it opened as the Medical Research Laboratory of the Air Service in 1918 in the infancy of Army aviation.
A faculty and staff of about 950 train 4,000 students a year at Wright-Patterson. The school trains airmen in aeromedical evacuations of wounded troops from combat zones to hospitals, has an epidemiology and environmental lab to analyze samples from bases around the world, and researches how to improve human performance with technology as part of the mission of the 711th Human Performance Wing.
Wright-Patterson marked it’s 100th anniversary in 2017.
The base traces its lineage to Dayton’s former McCook Field, an Army airplane engineering research center, Wilbur Wright Field, which prepared airmen for military aviation careers, and the Fairfield Aviation General Support Depot.