The Flight Surgeon badge is one of five badges covering seven different aeronautical ratings issued by the United States Air Force. Despite the title, providing medical treatment to injured or ill patients who are being evacuated by aircraft is not one of the main functions of Flight Surgeons. Instead, they act as the primary-care physicians for USAF aeronautically rated personnel such as Pilots, Combat Systems Officers/Navigators, Air Battle Managers, RPA Pilots and Observers, as well as associated aircrew members.

Even in the nascent days of military aviation, it was quickly understood that it involved exposure to unique conditions such as the exertion of G-force and low oxygen levels that could drastically impact pilot performance. One of the first and most rudimentary measures that could be taken to increase pilot safety was to ensure that all members of flight crews met a fairly high baseline of physical fitness. Today, Flight Surgeons primarily practice preventive medicine, monitoring the condition of Airmen to guarantee they’re physically capable of handling the challenges of aerospace flight.

Naturally, a prerequisite for a career as a Flight Surgeon is to have an MD or DO degree. Following Commissioned Officer Training, Flight Surgeon candidates attend the USAF’s Aerospace Medicine Primary (AMP), a series of three courses designed to provide the specialized knowledge and skills necessary for the proper medical treatment of aircrews and special-operations forces, with a focus on medical issues directly related to flight.

AMP 101 is the equivalent of a collegiate “survey” course, offering introduction to the principles of aerospace physiology, human performance during flight, hyperbaric medicine, and an overview of USAF missions and weapons systems associated with them. The 202 course covers the fundamentals of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, aeromedical standards, conditions that could limit duty, and personnel reliability. The final course introduces candidates to military aviation, concluding with a series of actual flights.

A very small number of Flight Surgeons may also qualify as Pilot-Physicians (AFSC 48VX). Rated as both Pilots and Flight Surgeons, Pilot-Physicians bring unique insights into reported medical problems associated with flights since they are able to bridge the two disciplines in a first-hand experience.

The basic Flight Surgeon badge is awarded to graduates of the Aerospace Medicine Primary Course. The badge is also awarded at the Senior and Chief level; the latter was changed from “Command” in June, 1950.

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