Michael's Dispatches

Leadership: More than a Word



10 November 2011

There are leaders, and there are people in leadership positions.  These are not synonymous.  Today is the 314th day of 2011.  According to iCasualties.org, approximately 515 Coalition members have died in Afghanistan this year.  Far more have been wounded and evacuated by helicopter.  Our MEDEVAC policy is dangerously flawed, yet no leader has stepped forward to fix what obviously is broken.

A helicopter evacuation is probably ongoing as you read these words.  In my dispatches Red Air, Golden Seconds, and Fool’s Gold & Troops’ Blood, a strong case was made for arming Dustoff Helicopters.  Arming Dustoff helicopters will reduce strain on our overstretched helicopter fleet in Afghanistan, and can save lives.

There is no need for lengthy studies before arming helicopters.  The Marines, Air Force, and British already use armed helicopters to evacuate wounded.  Their way works better.  It’s common sense that when an enemy is firing a machine gun, it’s good to fire back.  Yet today, we send unarmed Dustoff helicopters into hot LZs.  Sometimes there are delays in retrieving the grievously wounded from the battlefields simply because the Army Dustoffs have no machine guns and must wait on top cover, or cannot fight their way into an LZ.

This situation has been brought to the attention of Senators and Representatives.  None have taken the lead.  None have stepped up and said, “This will change.”  Day by day, more are wounded and more die.

Congressman Mike Pompeo (Kansas) has made a statement:

“My office has been in communication with the Army to obtain more information. As a veteran, I care deeply for all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are serving overseas to keep our country secure. I am passionate about ensuring they have the resources and support they need to complete their missions and return home to their loved ones.”

Congressman Mike Pompeo and others should do the right thing: stop waiting.  Lead.  This issue is important.

We are never more than a day away from the time when a troop will come forward with more video evidence of our MEDEVAC policy failure.  Such videos probably already exist.  I published one such video in Fool’s Gold & Troops’ Blood.

Combat will be ongoing as you read these words.

Please contact your Congressman.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Martin Mix · 9 years ago
    Dear Mr. Yon,
    I will contact my Congressman regarding this. For a lesson in leadership, these men should read the late Major Richard Winters "Beyond Band of Brothers". So many of our men and women in uniform live up to the ideals this great man exemplified and yet so many of those in leadership positions do not. I am thankful (and remind my children to be thankful as well) for the former and am perpetually frustrated by the latter. Thank you for your efforts here and thank you for suggesting something we can do to help.
    God Bless,
    --Martin Mix
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Austen Lennon · 9 years ago
    It appears that we are wasting our time communicating with Pompeo.... I commented on his Facebook (Post Below - as you can see it is not aggressive.) and e-mailed him twice

    The Facebook post has removed and I was unfriended...
    The emails have been unanswered...

    Facebook post:

    Congressman.... I do hope that you are serious about addressing the concerns over helicopters. I and others have written to your Director (James L. Richardson) and, may I say, one of my friends received a rude curt reply and I have received none at all. This leaves people to think that perhaps the subject is not one that you are going to dig deeply into. It also amazes me that someone who works for you can speak for you in this curt manner.

    American soldiers are dying because of obsolete red tape rules. Surely they deserve better. I read that you are a veteran so I understand that you will care about the soldiers... so please do your best to get this issue sorted out.

    You may ask why is someone who lives in the UK concerning himself with this issue but the American soldier heroes in Afghanistan rescue the British guys and gals too. America's war is our war and we stand shoulder to shoulder..... good luck........
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Cliff · 9 years ago
      I called Congressman West's DC office and gave them this web site and asked them to make sure he saw it. You can call him at 202-225- 026
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Juerg Schoettli · 9 years ago
      Hello Brothers in arms,
      the problem of arming MEDEVAC Helikopters might lay on a humanistic and political level?
      As long as we believe that armed conflicts are run by parties that respect certain rules (human rigts, red Cross etc...) it could work in a satisfying modus for all of us. As far as I can anderstand the real world, and you guys know better, these rules are not applied buy the guys fighting against us.
      My solution, don't tell, don't ask and just do what's necessary in the field to save our guys.

      Best soldiers luck to you all

      LTC Schöttli J.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dave Hollenbeck · 9 years ago
    You should try Congressman (Lt Col) Allen West, R-FL 22

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lynda · 9 years ago
    Michael, I have never written a Congressman before, but I have now. I pray that our leaders would truly lead in this issue and step up to the plate. Please let the men and women there know that not all Americans have forgotten them. Many of us care deeply and pray for their safety and soon return. Keep up the good work, Michael. We need you out there!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 9 years ago
    Arming the ambulances is not the answer as these airships are not designed or setup for same.

    You are not accounting for the extra weight of the guns and the extra crew to man them (crew served mini-guns weigh 70lbs each not including amm !

    I keep hearing about the other services rescue choppers but they are are designed and setup for a totally different mission support and recovery effort, usually deep behind enemy lines!

    We need to be pressuring Congress and the Pentagon to supply the same type aerial and ground perimeter security for the wounded that they provide for all the visiting brass butts that come to the AOP!

    Problem solved!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ken Paul · 9 years ago
    You're a 19 year old kid.

    You're critically wounded and dying in the jungle somewhere in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam .

    It's November 11, 1967.
    LZ (landing zone) X-ray.

    Your unit is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 yards away, that your CO (commanding officer) has ordered the MedEvac helicopters to stop coming in.

    You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you're not getting out.

    Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again.

    As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.

    Then - over the machine gun noise - you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter.

    You look up to see a Huey coming in. But.. It doesn't seem real because no MedEvac markings are on it.

    Captain Ed Freeman is coming in for you.

    He's not MedEvac so it's not his job, but he heard the radio call and decided he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway.
    Even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come. He's coming anyway.

    And he drops it in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load of you at a time on board.

    Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses and safety.

    And, he kept coming back!! 1 more times!!
    Until all the wounded were out. No one knew until the mission was over that the Captain had been hit 4 times in the legs and left arm.

    He took 29 of you and your buddies out that day. Some would not have made it without the Captain and his Huey.

    Medal of Honor Recipient, Captain Ed Freeman, United States Air Force, died last Wednesday at the age of 70, in Boise , Idaho

    May God Bless and Rest His Soul.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      M Farr · 9 years ago
      well you're close to right ;-) and he actually did better - go check out Snopes.com "Captain Ed Freeman", variataions of the above is there along w the real story and more importantly his MOH citation. He died August 20, 2008.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jerry Hoffman · 9 years ago
      Very moving and powerful. Thank you for sharing.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Barry Sheridan · 9 years ago
      I echo that. A very impressive and courageous man.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Shaun Fowler · 9 years ago
    Unarmed helicopters going into a battle zone - wonder who had the foresight to give the troops guns - the lunatics have finally taken over - what chance do our boys have - shame on the Generals. God bless and keep our boys.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin Stalker · 9 years ago
    Simple Solution Set- Congressman Pompeo is a representative of Kansas. Fort Riley is in Kansas. Spc. Clark was in 4-4 Cav, based out of Ft. Riley. He doesn't care enough to do something for his constituents. He built his cross, he can be crucified on it in the next election. "If the people in office won't work in the best interests of those that elected them, we will vote someone in who will." Does it suck for those there? Very much so. It always sucks to be on the pointy end. But that's how politics work in this country, for better or worse. Telling the wounded that they cant be evac'd for political reasons is intolerable, but its almost an election year, and anyone who's served knows how THAT goes.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Austen Lennon · 9 years ago
    I eventually received a reply from my emails to the Congressman's office. The reason for the curt and rude reply is that The Army brass has been disparaging Michael Yon to the Congressman.

    Hence the rudeness and the bluntness of the reply.

    I find that concerning as the Congressman has obviously told his staff that they can treat Michael Yon with distain without hearing Mr Yon. It also means that he is in tight with The Brass; so how will he really tackle the issue? Will it be lip service?

    The Brass have something to lose and the Congressman does not take that into consideration when listening to their bitching about Michael Yon.

    MIchael Yon has nothing to gain, except the knowledge that is is contributing to the welfare of the troops, so why the negativity from the Congressman's office.

    Worst of all I understand that the Congressman has now started bad mouthing Michael Yon.... and slandering him!

    I just wonder if there is a real passion on the Congressman's part to get this matter sorted... perhaps we should either, start talking to the people who are running against the Congressman or try to get the interest of a Congressman without the baggage?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Martin Mix · 9 years ago
    Just a note, Michael, that I heard back from my Senator, Saxby Chambliss, but it was a generic note about the effort in Afghanistan in general, the surge, the trool withdrawal and nothing about my specific concern about the Dustoff helicopters. Disappointing and clear that Senator Chambliss didn't read my letter and is not clued in to this issue.
    Best Regards,
    --Martin Mix

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