First Haitians become Internationally Certified Flight Communications Specialists

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The constellation in the skies over Haiti Air Ambulance expanded recently when Roger Noel, James Paterson Marcelin, Rony Pierre and Jimmy Beliard were the first Haitians to become Internationally Certified Flight Communications Specialists (IAMTCS CFCS). After three months of intense studying—while keeping up with their full time positions as flight dispatchers at Haiti Air Ambulance and other personal responsibilities—the four men took a rigorous exam to earn their certification.

Imagine being a flight dispatcher. It requires keeping tabs on the value points of each mission: tracking the minute-by-minute vertical and horizontal movements of the helicopter as well as the speed, staying on top of the clinical components and syncopating the various hospitals and ground ambulances to transport the patient without losing a second. It’s a heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping hour, sometimes more, and while the clock is racing and things are moving fast, it’s the flight communications specialist who keeps the pace of it all making sure not a second is wasted.

The courses, and the exam, are focused on a thorough understanding of the meteorological, aviation, clinical and logistical underpinnings of every medical transport. And, in daily practice, the Haiti Air Ambulance flight communications specialists must be able to navigate these details fluently between English, French and Kreyol.

Thus it’s almost no surprise that when the time came for the exam, all four men passed with perfect scores of 100!

Under the tutelage of Haiti Air Ambulance’s clinical base manager Brooks Dillahunty, and through the support of the pilots, clinical crew members and fellow staff, the team worked independently as well as together. “We are once again honored by the passion and commitment of our team,” Brooks Dillahunty said. “The flight communications specialists are rewarded with their certification but all of us are elevated by their dedication to their field.”

The International Association of Medical Transportation Communication Specialists (IAMTCS) organized an intense week of reviews and practice tests. Shawnda Myers, David Ellis and Aaron Bowles personally traveled to Haiti for the final week of preparations and administered the exam.

The final step in the grueling process was a practice test, to which another practice might have been issued prior to final. However, upon completion of the first, all four men passed well beyond the required 70%, scoring between 85 and 95%. When informed that the results were good enough to count as the real test scores, Roger, James, Rony and Jimmy declined the offer, insisting instead to be tested again.

“We kept one objective in mind: to pass the test with a perfect score to show our pride and gratitude for the opportunity given us,” said lead communications specialist Roger Noel, IAMTCS CFC. “Thanks to Haiti Air Ambulance, the difficulties of distance and remote locations that were once impossible for medical crews to reach are no longer inaccessible. And the constant efforts to develop our resources continues to drive our ability to meet any demands. We knew that everyone was eager for our success—our managers, administrators, medical crew, pilots, mechanics, the support staff and the more than 10.5 million Haitians and visitors who count on us to be there when they call. Each day we will continue to work hard. We will give our maximum and continue to achieve even greater milestones.”

When inaugurating Haiti Air Ambulance 4 years ago, founder Patrick Dolan made a commitment to developing a world-class helicopter emergency medical service that is available for Haitians and powered by Haitians. This latest advancement of part of the Haitian staff is a watershed moment both for Haiti’s first and only helicopter emergency medical service and for the country of Haiti.

“We make history every day at Haiti Air Ambulance and our team is at the heart of that,” executive director Nada Marjanovich said. “On this occasion we celebrate an elite group of four young men who have done something historic for themselves as well as our unique service. But they’ve also made an impact in Haiti, and particularly for aviation in this Caribbean nation. The role of the flight communicator is validated by these men and establishes a new career path for those who come behind them.”