Coordinating Aero-Medical Evacuations (AME) for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) across the entire Middle East region is a big responsibility for young doctor, Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Ze-Chuen Goon.
The 28-year-old Medical Officer from Sale, Victoria is on his first deployment and is deployed as part of Operation Accordion's Role One Enhanced Medical Facility.
As the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Officer, his primary role is to coordinate the evacuation of deployed personnel intra and inter-theatre, from locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
In busy periods, he assists with the provision of primary care to the 500 ADF personnel located at Australia’s main operations base at Camp Baird.
FLTLT Goon said that his role has been challenging but also a great opportunity to learn new skills.
"Junior doctors are often not afforded the opportunity to do this kind of operations planning role until we’re in the deployed environment," FLTLT Goon said.
"As a General Practitioner in training, it's been a steep learning curve exercising different parts of my brain in order to plan a successful AME mission."
The planning involved in organising an AME is significant and requires input from various stakeholders.
"I have a whole shopping list of stakeholders and organisations that I have to liaise with when stepping up an AME," he said.
FLTLT Goon first became interested in aeromedical evacuation and aviation medicine while studying medicine at university in Melbourne.
"During my time at Monash University, I attended a career fair and was drawn to the Defence stand offering the prospect of working in aviation medicine," he said.
"A career in Defence seemed to draw together all of my interests from different areas of my life while giving me something to work towards."
In 2008, FLTLT Goon enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Undergraduate Scheme, and was posted to the 1st Expeditionary Health Squadron Combat Support Unit in East Sale.
Through the RAAF Undergraduate Scheme and initial Air Force familiarisation course, FLTLT Goon developed strong friendships which have stayed with him throughout his career.
In fact, three people from his cohort are deployed to the Middle East on Operational Accordion at the same time.
"All of the junior officers here at the medical centre were on the same familiarisation course, so we’ve managed to keep those friendships going," he said.
"Being old friends we quickly slid into a good working routine as we didn’t have to go through the initial process of 'norming, forming and storming'."
FLTLT Goon said that those friendships have also helped form a great collegiate culture.
"Every two weeks we'll have a doctors meeting where we'll sit down and discuss clinical cases and application of medical policy," he said.
"It allows us all to interact together as doctors while making the most of our deployed experience."
Despite this being FLTLT Goon's first deployment, as a junior Medical Officer he has had some incredible experiences.
"I have flown in the back of a Hercules aircraft as they're doing tactical manoeuvres, learning how to look after an unwell patient," he said.
"I have been dunked upside-down in a roll cage to simulate escaping from a crashed helicopter underwater, and now I'm working in the Middle East.
"These are things that you won't get to do anywhere else and it has really benefited me as a person and as a doctor."