Michael's Dispatches

Marked for Destruction



14 November 2011

Camouflage is a combat imperative.  Instruction in the use of camouflage begins in basic training.  The Red Cross on the bright white background is meant to break up camouflage and to be seen.

While there might seem little chance in hiding a roaring helicopter, the contrasting colors and sharp shapes of the Red Cross create a significant difference when aiming shots.  Many or most of the enemies in Afghanistan are bad shots.  Others are good.  They make successful long shots onto FOB Pasab, for instance, with explosive weapons, such as recoilless rifles and rockets.  They have no problems hitting moving armored vehicles with recoilless rifles.  One shot can easily destroy a helicopter.

2011-09-24-110438cc1000Combat Medic in 4-4 Cav: Not Wearing Red Cross

The Red Cross specifically means that the wearer is unarmed.  Only non-combatants are to display the symbol.  There is no security violation in saying that our helicopters sporting Red Crosses all are unarmed.  That is exactly what we are trying to advertise.

The enemies in Afghanistan will shoot down any helicopter.  And so, if the Army insists on using unarmed helicopters for MEDEVAC missions, it makes doubly no sense to advertise that the helicopter is defenseless, all while literally helping the enemy to aim.

2011-09-24-105447cc10004-4 Cav Soldiers firing mortar during minor firefight

It must border on criminal negligence to order our people to advertise that they are unarmed while knowing that the enemy will fire upon them.  At minimum, the US Army is displaying incompetence and a lack of sense.  The Marines, Air Force, and British do not so encumber their helicopters.  After ten years of war we know that the enemy shoots at all helicopters.  We know that forcing our warriors to advertise themselves as unarmed welcomes attack.  We know that the Red Cross literally makes an easier target for aiming.  After ten years of war, the Army has not adapted to this obvious reality.  

If the Army insists on pushing unarmed Soldiers into combat, it should at minimum remove the advertisement that notifies the enemy of an easy target.  With the Red Cross, our people cannot even bluff that they might have weapons.  Pushing unarmed Soldiers into combat while forcing them to advertise they are defenseless is wrong. 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wade Karbs · 9 years ago
    It is still amazing to me that the Army would still adhere to the Geneva Convention in this matter. The Taliban and most all of the rest of the people that we are fighting nowadays don't know what the hell that the GC is, and wouldn't care or abide by it if they were aware of it.
    WHEN will we learn that imposing these archaic "rules" on our soldiers only serves to handicap them in the field. The same goes for most of the ROE's that are dreamed up by some politician or fat ass REMF General in the Pentagon. ITS WAR! Kill the enemy and go home! Thats how it works. That is, until you throw politics into the mix.
    We have before, and are now seeing the results of trying to fight a war from a shiny leather seat in Washington.

    OS2 USN 1986-1990 Persian Gulf Tanker War Veteran.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rupert Fiennes · 9 years ago
    Hmm. It's been a while since I did the "Geneva Conventions" training video, but my recollections are that medics are both specifically allowed to carry weapons and use them in defense of wounded. Not sure the Conventions should prevent arming of anything. That being said, I see very little point in the current straightened circumstances of having dedicated medical helicopters per se
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark · 9 years ago
    If the law sucks, change the law... simply disregarding laws when we don't want to follow them is not the way to go.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Wade Karbs · 9 years ago
      What law? The issue here is that we ARE following the rules and its harmful to our people in country. There has been no disregarding of any law.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike · 9 years ago
    Why was my comment deleted? Did I say something wrong?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Mike · 9 years ago
      Just in case it was something I did wrong, I was wondering what your response is to this
      [This is Richard the webmaster. I deleted the link because it amounted to an advertisement to a website. They refuse to link to our website and so they will not get links in return. Notwithstanding that the article is nonsense and will be a waste of time. They have freedom of speech, but that does not mean they are free to publish anywhere they wish. Do you work for that website? Tell them to publish links to these articles. That website censors our website. We will not link over. Thank You.]
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Malagoli · 9 years ago
    It just baffles me something so simple to do and with a little common sense to fix a problem...but then again we are talking about a government that can't balance their own checkbook. Just a bunch of idiots, I'll buy the paint and spray the copters myself but they would arrest me for defacing government property,I'm just a simple man raising my famliy and I have more sense. So sad.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brett Hood · 9 years ago
    I don't think Michael is saying ignore the Geneva Convention...quite the contrary...I believe what he is saying is that the Taliban is ignoring the Geneva Convention by shooting at helicopters that are marked as unarmed by the red cross they are flying...

    To take off the red crosses and mount 50 cals or 7.62 minis is not a violation, if I understand the rules correctly...the violation would be to carry those weapons AND the red cross...

    The point is that the Marines, Air Force and Brits choose to pick up wounded with armed aircraft instead of unarmed aircraft...a choice the Army could make if they wanted to...the law doesn't need to be changed, the Army can arm their helicopters and drop the red cross and would be FOLLOWING LAW...there is no problem here except internal politics and bureaucracy.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      ret7army · 9 years ago
      @ Brett Hood,
      correct the Law of Land Warfare & the Geneva Conventions do not prohibit armed personnel or their vehicles from doing medivac/case evac.
      The red cross on white background was intended to mark the medics as non-combatants so that they would not be deliberately targeted. If, however, the case is that it only serves to make them a more opportune target, then as Mike advocates and the Marines, USAF, USN, Brits, etc have done removing the markings and arming the vehicles for their defensive role (I'm including ground as well as Helo's in the argument) makes perfectly good sense.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve · 9 years ago
    What is the device on the right side of the medics helmet???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    OSOGRANDE · 9 years ago
    The rules of the Geneva convention dont apply here. #1 AQ & the Taliban havent signed the convention rules. #2 The convention rules only apply to [B]uniformed[/B] enemy combatants from a recognized COUNTRY'S military.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MacvTm19 · 9 years ago
    The 101st Airborne Division's 26th Medical Battalion formed an air ambulance platoon known as 'Eagle Dustoff' that was responsible for aerial medical evacuation of casualties in its area of operations, including some of the most infamous hot spots in all of Southeast Asia.

    The red crosses on the nose and sides of the chopper were no guarantee of safe passage. Neither were the empty M-60 machine-gun positions in the 'hell holes' (rearmost seats). Firepower and protection were supplied by Bell AH-1G Cobra gunships from the division's air assault battalion. Two of the'snakes' raced alongside the airborne ambulance or darted back and forth, looking for things to kill.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter · 9 years ago
    Micheal, I certainly think the drug war, in Afghanistan or Mexico, is worthy of an upclose view. Until this "dustoff" thing settles, home base is probably better.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Wise · 9 years ago
    Interesting parallel to the second world war -- Stephen Ambrose mentions in "Citizen Soldiers" that the first thing a medic did when ordered to either Europe or the Pacific was buy some paint to touch up the red cross on their helmet -- if ordered to Europe, they bought red and white paint, as the Germans tended not to shoot medics; if ordered to the Pacific, they bought green paint, as the Japanese tended to target them especially...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    GREY · 9 years ago
    Awesome job been following you for many years, since your book. You deserve a Pulitzer Prize
    ( www.pulitzer.org/administration) ,,all of on here should to help you get nominated for your work all these years!!! PLEASE OPEN our citizens eyes about the US Border , waterways, airways and underground operations. Thank you for all of your dedication and hard work. I hope one day I get to shake your hand and thank you for your hard work..Thank you for being sure a leading PATRIOT for our country. Keep telling the truth, no matter who you piss off.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 9 years ago
    The war with the drug cartels are far more inportant then the war overseas. We won't need to worry about Muslims fanatics if the USA is overrun with Gangs,drugs,illegals,Cartels and muslims fanatics walking down Main Street USA. Come on home I'll be ready to give you support. The Cartels care less about human life. I remember when the Mob and the Hells Angels were our biggest problems.

    The Obama Administration could careless because they want the Latin American country votes. If the White House was on the border and not in Washington DC it would be a different story.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Valerie Conley · 9 years ago
    Until the written and oral rules change, we can't take the crosses off. Funny -- when someone makes Michael mad, he digs in with the tenacity of a pit bull and truth and veracity be damned.

    he found it easy to take this on but he didn't seem to have anything to say about a real hero -- SSG Brian Cowdrey when he was killed rescuing wounded and a hero off a mountain top.

    You all go right ahead and slaver over his posts -- as for me, I will listen to the soldiers I support who are over there and my son who just came back from there.

    And I don't expect this post to stay up very long either -- that's Michael's policy -- agree or be banned!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      ST Dog · 9 years ago
      Well Valerie, 2 weeks later and it's still here.

      Wrong again.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Greg · 9 years ago
      I can't think of a greater advocate for our soldiers and marines than Michael. I have three sons and 2 nephews in the military. One of my boys is a crew chief on a medevac. If there is anything I can do to bring attention to an outdated policy that will help keep our soldiers safe, I’m all for it. I don’t frequent these posts for the personalities or touchy feely effect; I frequent them for informational awareness. I read about SSG Brian Cowdrey and he was a hero. There is no better way to honor your friend and those that have fallen then to live a virtuous life and to always remember their sacrifices. Keep up the good work Mike.

      God Speed to all of our Soldiers & Marines.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      henry wood · 9 years ago
      Valerie Conley, you say we can't take the crosses off. Would you care to explain how the Marines, the Air Force and the British can fly without this bullseye target painted on their machines? Your version of truth and veracity seems to be on a par with those top brass who seem more concerned with sticking to outdated rules from another era than trying to protect the frontline troops.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Mike · 9 years ago
        Henry, it's easy. The Marines and Air Force don't have dedicated MEDEVAC choppers, something Michael won't tell you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim Sullivan · 9 years ago
    [*][S]( [/S][/*] It is over in Afganhistan as we are pulling out.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joseph Suh · 9 years ago
    Has anybody tried a petition on Change.org?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Auman · 9 years ago
    I have a worry that the Mexican bad guys would be even more dangerous for you than what you face in Crapistan. Once you cross the border you are alone and vulnerable.

    I'd be interested in what is happening in the Balkins and the Caucasus.

    Anyway, I'm a big fan of yours and I'll follow what you are up to wherever.

    Mark Auman
    Las Vegas
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Willard Cushman · 9 years ago
    @Osogrande- There you go, Big Bear, confusing the issue by presenting facts xD. It seems that the people who insist that we MUST obey "the rules of war" don't bother to research the so-called rules or who they apply to. The Army seems to fall into this group, unfortunately.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Reg Whatley · 9 years ago
      [quote name="Willard Cushman"]@Osogrande- There you go, Big Bear, confusing the issue by presenting facts xD. It seems that the people who insist that we MUST obey "the rules of war" don't bother to research the so-called rules or who they apply to. The Army seems to fall into this group, unfortunately.[/QUOTE]
      The Geneva Convention rules of war apply to unarmed red cross personnel, it does not stipulate that casevac guys should not carry arms or ride around in unarmed transport. The British and USAF are not breaking the rules.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J. Anderson · 9 years ago
    Best Wishes Michael! I know that you must have had many gut checks while embedded or off the reservation.

    I would be interested to see how your type of journalism plays south of the border, or north of the Potomac!

    Good work. When you return to the States, try to return with a unit that comes through Portsmouth, NH so you can experience the "Pease Greeters". You will be amazed!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dickusmc63/67 · 9 years ago
    Michael you are a good and brave man. I will continue to support you in anythiing you do.

    When you get home take a well deserved break.
    USMC 196 -67
    Viet Nam 1965-66
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chad · 9 years ago
    The Red Cross does not mean the wearer is unarmed. It means that his weapons can only be used for the protection of himself or the wounded. Individuals wearing the red cross fall into a special category (Protected Persons) under the Geneva Convention and are treated differently by signatories. In addition the red cross is not the only permissable symbol that can be displayed. A red crescent can be used also. Of course placing a red crescent on a US helicopter would set off cries about kowtowing to the enemy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    adam · 9 years ago
    As ateen in the 80s I remember reading in the arn chair warrior mags about the USSR having to remove the red star from their helos' bc it was on the cowling over the engine/trany and made an awsome target for the Afgans. 0 years later we are making the same mistake with the red cross on our birds. Could it be that the Army still doesn't respect the fact that these people have been fighting their entire lives and are not the ignorant peasants w/ . 0 Lee-Enfields the USSR faced and lost too, they are a seasoned guerilla force with modern equipment and no respect for the Geniva convention.They were trained by the US in the 80s and have increased that knowledge since, oh yeah they really do HATE us and don't care about "rules" bc their god will forgive them sins against the infidels.

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