Michael's Dispatches

MEDEVAC at FOB Pasab, Afghanistan


24 October 2012

mullah-omar-1000Mullah Omar

Google has a function called “Alerts.” This function allows users to program keywords and receive daily updates from the web.  Using alerts is like having your own investigative wing scouring for information on topics of interest.   Two of the keywords that I use are MEDEVAC and MEDIVAC.

After a group of concerned citizens and I started raising MEDEVAC issues last year, the net alerts suggested that an extraordinary number of MEDEVAC units were sent to Afghanistan.  Later, word came from Afghanistan that our efforts caused a great increase in available MEDEVAC assets.

On a side note, it appears that communities across the United States are buying MEDEVAC helicopters for civilian use.

Army MEDEVAC uses the call sign “Dustoff” (or Dust Off).  The call sign derives from the Vietnam era.  The most renowned Dustoff pilot is probably Major General (ret.) Patrick Brady.  MG Brady received the Medal of Honor for flying Dustoff in Vietnam.  I am currently reading his excellent book called Dead Men Flying.

Interestingly, many opposed our MEDEVAC awareness work, which stemmed in part from a MEDEVAC that failed to launch from FOB Pasab in time to save an American Soldier:  RED AIR 

And so when our group noticed that MG (ret.) Brady held similar views, we were not surprised.  Many Dustoff pilots share General Brady’s views.  This October 2012 article outlines how MG Patrick Brady believes that the military is failing to reach the highest standards in its Dustoff mission.

Google Alerts brought this story today from FOB Pasab, the same base in southern Afghanistan that launched the tardy Dustoff on the 2011 morning when Chazray Clark was killed by a bomb strike:

Medevac central: A glimpse at one of the busiest medevac locations in Afghanistan

The most recent story from FOB Pasab contains many clues.  Importantly, a Captain wrote this article, and the Army published it.

The Army story indicates that there are now two Dustoff helicopters at Pasab.  The story does not explicitly say this, but it mentions two crews who sometimes are flying simultaneously.  While I was there last year, there was only one Dustoff, along with a chase helicopter.  The military seems to have at least doubled MEDEVAC assets at Pasab.  Did the dispatches about MEDEVAC make a difference?  For Pasab, we do not know for sure, but where the bigger picture is concerned, we know that they did.

Now to a broader part of the Army story linked above.  Casualties last year already were high around Pasab.  A Dustoff from Pasab typically picks up casualties on battlefields that are very close.  Sometimes the casualties happen on base due to rockets or other incoming fire.  Other times, you can hear a large bomb explode off base, and about ten minutes later the Dustoff launches.  That is your sign that the Internet is about to “black out,” so that troops cannot speculate online about what happened.

For American casualties, a Dustoff from Pasab typically flies to the trauma hospital at Kandahar Airfield.  If the wounded Soldiers survive, they will be stabilized and are often sent to Germany.  If they die, normally they will be sent home immediately after respects are paid at a “ramp ceremony.”

image003The craters on the moon cause me to wonder how many bombs exploded in Afghanistan

Last year, the area around Pasab was as dangerous as Sangin was during the period when the British had the lead.  Both Pasab and Sangin reminded me at times of heavy fighting in Iraq.  The area around Pasab is a trauma zone, and the Army has beefed up evacuation assets after our MEDEVAC advocacy efforts.

The war effort seemed to evince some regional progress in that area last year, but the proof eventually will be in the numbers.  The area is not large.  Either the place is becoming more secure, or it is not.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the area is not becoming more secure.  Messages come from our troops that the place is still a bomb and shoot-out gallery.

This battle space is not deep in the Hindu Kush or a Congolese jungle.  The terrain is wide open, readily accessible by foot, or even on a bicycle.  The terrain around Orlando, Florida is tougher.  The micro-terrain can be challenging, but in reality what makes the micro-terrain tough is that the enemy forces you off of the easy places to walk, and causes you to climb walls and grape rows like a monkey.  If the people were not waging war, even the micro-terrain would be easy because you would walk through the grape rows, not over them, and you could walk through doors instead of climbing walls.

Just go to Google Earth, type in “Panjwai,” and have a look.  Simple terrain.  Unless people are trying to blow you up.

From a large military perspective, considering the needs of American technology, the terrain could hardly be more American-friendly.  You could, without exaggerating, fly straight to Kandahar, hop on a motorbike and be in the middle of the battle space an hour later. But too many of the people do not want us to be there.

It may interest Americans to know that in 2011, American time, effort and resources were spent (not invested) refurbishing Mullah Omar’s Mosque in this same battle space that is covered by the Dustoff helicopters at Pasab.

The mosque is in a village called Sangsar.  Sangsar Village is the very bellybutton of the Taliban.  Ground Zero.  This is it.  The birthplace of the latest Mad Mullah war.  And we refurbished Mullah Omar’s mosque there in 2011.  This would be like building a memorial for Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad.

Some folks may have forgotten who Mullah Omar is.  After all, the war is into its 12th year with no end visible.  Mullah Omar is the top Taliban leader, who welcomed Osama bin Laden into Afghanistan.  By refurbishing his mosque, we pretend that we have a role to play in Mullah Omar’s home village, and that we are winning friends and influencing people.

According to the Army MEDEVAC story:

“Pasab averages 30 percent of all Category Alpha medevac   missions in RC-South. The medevac crews at Pasab also see the worst injuries as they only respond to urgent medical calls, known as CAT-A missions. These are calls with injuries, such as a multiple amputee patients, that require a response from mission start to medical facility delivery of less than one hour - known as the golden hour.”

This is what we get in return for refurbishing Mullah Omar’s mosque.  We cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan.  There is a reason. We are not in a tunnel.  We are digging a hole.  This hole is nothing but a grave for our youths who trust that we know more than we do.

At what point do we start calling this murder?

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chris G · 7 years ago
    That is one of the nicest pictures of the moon I've ever seen! Care to tell us about taking it? Taking that from on Earth, that's truly impressive!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon author · 7 years ago
      Thank you. Thank was Canon Mark II 5d.

      ISO 125, f16, 1/25sec, 800mm, exposure bias -0.3. I do not see which country I took this in, or the date (for some reason). Am thinking either Afghanistan or Nepal.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 7 years ago
    I had no idea a mosque was being rebuilt by the leader who invited OBL on American tax payers money. I want the U.S. Army to destroy that mosque and get in a hell of a gunfight shooting matches with the terrorists & lay waste to the terrorist networks operating in Af-Pak. Hunt down that man until he is found for inviting OBL to Afghanistan. Show no mercy to these evil people. We came to Afghanistan after Sept. 11th, 2001 to lay waste to the enemy. Not make friends with the enemy. The enemy would love for us to leave Afghanistan so that they can go back to murdering women & children in soccer stadiums. Hell No !!! Lay waste to enemy strongholds.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Larry · 7 years ago
      Absolutely correct Heath. All this crap is a direct result of the military adopting the same political correctness which is destroying our country from the inside back home.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Guest · 7 years ago
      I am a soldier who was recently on this fob for anonymities sake I'm going to leave names and whatnot out. But if we even step into a mosque our commanders will flip shit. If we were to blow one up even on accident we get fucked over. And as much as I want to agree with you I can't because by doing that too many of us will die and I personally am not willing to watch the soldiers under me die because we wanted to be spiteful.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 7 years ago
    And I was very furious about this. I am glad that Medevacs issues are making a positive impact. Hopefully under a new adminstration, the Medevacs helicopter issue will be resolved and the flying military ambulances are heavily armed to the teeth. God Bless America.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 7 years ago
    "This is what we get in return for refurbishing Mullah Omar’s mosque. We cannot see any light at the end of a tunnel in Afghanistan. We are not in a tunnel. We are digging a hole. This hole is nothing but a grave for our young people who trust that we know more than we do. At what point do we start calling this murder?"

    Now you have gone and done it :-?

    I thought my last comments on the present POTUS where a bit strong, but this appears to be an excoriating indictment of the whole Military Industrial Complex, and the politicians too :-?

    Talk about throwing down the gauntlet

    Yet from a warriors perspective, your are right on target 8)

    I don't know of any other conflict in history, Vietnam included, which has had more in depth reporting and analysis on what an absolute FUBAR the Middle Eastern wars have become :-x

    Yet the American viewing and slightly interested public is told by the lamestream media, what some asinine celebrity said or did is more important, than issues like the ones dealt with here :-?

    Most of the people I see going about their buiness everyday, don't have the time to care, they are either too busy desperately trying to hold on to what they've got or they are in some altered reality wherein they don't have a clue, i.e. substance abuse, legal and illegal

    Michael keep up the mission no matter what, your enlightened message will eventually find it's way into the collective American psyche and then there will be HOPE, for some real and positive CHANGE 8)

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Max Doner · 7 years ago
    Appeasement of Islam has never worked, and never will. Rebuilding the mosque was the WORST thing that the US could have done. All the muslims understand is force and subjugation. Bring that to them, and they will lay down. Anything else, and all you do is encourage them in their murder and tyranny.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      ironargonaut · 7 years ago
      ask the Soviets how that worked out for them.
      Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.
      So, we refurbished a Mosque big deal.
      Problem isn't trying to be friendly. Problem is we keep trying to wage war on the cheap, as in:
      Let the locals do it.
      If we send less people then less people will die. :roll:
      We don't want to look like occupiers even though we are.
      Total BS, we should have sent in a million man army, treated the locals with respect, provided security from the Taliban, and killed Bin Laden at Tora Bora. Set up a gov't on our terms.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Peter · 7 years ago
        I like it. Overwhelming force. I think that is lesson 1 in military tactics. Seems to me I heard Collin Powell and stormin Norman say that in GWI. Ah, how the mighty have fallen, God help us!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tamara · 7 years ago
    This weekend I saw a program on the Military Channel about the history of helicopters. MG Brady was interviewed along with other Vietnam helicopter veterans. One of them made the statement that many pilots/crew painted over the Red Cross in order not to become targets. Mmmmmmmm..........

    Thanks for your updates on this subject and many other stories you have brought to light.

    God bless you and kee you safe.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Charles, Bath · 7 years ago
    I am sick of reading 'let's just give up' comments.

    Get this through your heads - America will not be able to scuttle out of Afghanistan in 2014 without a price being paid by you at some point.

    Your enemies remember defeats - just like they remember Somalia, Beirut and Vietnam.

    Bin Laden hit you on 9/11 because he saw you as weak and in retreat. Bugging out of Somalia led directly to 9/11.

    The question should be 'how do we win?'

    If the US cannot or will not defeat a motley crew like the Taliban in terrain that appears tailor made for US supremacy, then God help you is all I can say. Just go home, pull the covers over your heads and wait for someone formidable, like the Chinese, to really kick you ass.

    And you think 12 years is a long time? WWII lasted 6 years - it didn't start on D-Day in 1944 you know. There'd been 5 hard long years before that.

    And here in the UK we were in Northern Ireland for 30 years before the IRA disarmed.

    And you lose more people every weeks on your roads than you have in 11 years in Afghanistan. Why aren't you screaming about that? Why aren't you talking about the sinister "automobile-highway complex", as you do about the 'military-industrial complex'?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      LTC Al Sharpe, USA · 7 years ago
      Too True. One would think the immolation of nearly 3,000 citizens would make Americans pursue and erradicate those responsible, even unto the ends of the earth and until the end of time. Reality shows differently. I suspect future competitors will deliberately pursue a drawn out strategy, knowing the American public will not have the stomach for another long-term confrontation.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Charles, Bath · 7 years ago
        I hate the thought that America no longer has the determination to win, come what may.

        This world still needs America to have that kind of determination. I know that we here in the UK still need you. With only 60 million people here, and with a Europe that has basically given up on the idea of military force, we can't do much alone.

        It actually frightens me a bit that it might be true that America is no longer willing to pursue victory when winning is hard.

        As you say, you can be sure that your enemies are watching and learning and planning how to beat you by wearing you down.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Michael Yon author · 7 years ago
        The strategy in Afghanistan is not working. Year by year it creates more enemies who now are enriched by US and Coalition taxpayers. It makes zero sense in implementation, though it makes a great narrative of "I have a dream."
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Charles, Bath · 7 years ago

          It seems pretty clear from here that the strategy and tactics in Afghanistan are not working.

          For example, the occasional patrols through hostile terrain seem pointless.

          But I simply cannot accept that a superpower like the United States and its allies cannot create strategy and new tactics to defeat a poorly equipped and organised enemy like the Taliban.

          As you say, the terrain is perfect for American weapons.

          And I still say that even if a 100% reduction in Taliban activity is impossible, the US should hang on until the general radical Islamic threat has declined worldwide. If that takes 30 more years, then so be it.
          • This commment is unpublished.
            Michael Yon author · 7 years ago

            They are easy to beat. That would be little challenge and more a function of fuel and ammunition. That brings with it broader implications. Especially in this age.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heath · 7 years ago
    For those who do not understand, a normal mosque will not hold terrorists or their evil supplies. This is actually a terrorist mosque and the U.S. Army needs to lay waste to the mosque with their M-16's & M-60's. Destroy the minaret with artillery for all I care. The U.S. Troops should not have to put up with that crap. I am pretty sure the U.S. Troops know the difference between a normal mosque and a terrorist mosque. Lay waste to that terrorist mosque.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Ryden · 7 years ago
      That'd probably be a bad idea, since it'd look a lot like religious war for the Afghans, since Islam is a considerable part of their daily life. What would work would be taking the "Iraqi" approach to the problem, sending in Iraqi troops to search mosques for weapons and terrorists. The only difference here would be that it'd be Afghan troops, and they'd demolish the mosque.

      Or maybe something else, like search the mosque for stored weapons, which would mean that the next time the Talibans want to shoot from it, they're going to have to bring new weapons, and that'd make them legit targets for a UAV loitering the area with its neat Hellfire missiles.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    sattar rind · 7 years ago
    your blog is out of screen. i do not know how to fix it? i make/ create a lot trouble reading your blog.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary Yungeberg · 7 years ago
    At what point murder...you are so right. Thank you so much for your reporting, I have relied on it for the truth for years and share it as much as possible.
    I can't believe it...about the mosque. Makes me heart sick.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robert Burrichter · 7 years ago
    FYI... Air & Space Smithsonian, Nov. '12, has an interesting article on the Medevac mission. The article is not so much about 'in country' Medevac, but its world wide range. Interestingly the article mentions that none of the lift assets are marked with the
    red cross emblem.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ay Uaxe · 7 years ago
    I recall a while back seeing a photo of that statement on a message board from either Iraq or Iran. That is the downside of strength, security, and comfort enjoyed by the U.S.A. and all of North America. The fact that it still exists is testament to how incredibly strong we were. The fact that we, as a society, don't really appreciate what it took to get to this point and how quickly it will all unravel, if we continue down the apathetic, PC, and spend-thrift paths our nation is proof that we are populated by the same flawed, myopic humanity that lives everywhere else. We know what strategy and tactics are required to deal successfully with a zealous, pathological, theocratic regime and the militant society it creates and requires to survive. At great human and moral cost, we pursued it successfully against Japan in WWII. We did not attempt to rebuild Shinto social structures, especially in government. We installed a secular, constitutional parliamentary government and made sure it was working before we left. Had we simply put the god emperor back into power and allowed the then-existing Japanese political regime to merely re-install itself, as we have done when we permit and even encourage other countries to install Islamic theocracies and sharia law (as done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.), we and the entire Pacific would've faced a very different future than the relatively peaceful economic boom experienced since. We know what it takes to win--intelligently applied overwhelming force (bombs and artillery before soldiers) and a level of moral and political certitude that ensures the elements of the enemy society that made them enemies is fully removed and replaced by a political model that works and allows the people to act reasonably, freely, in their own self-interest and not subject to the dictates of warlords or theocratic elites. It is a remarkable and sad, if not full-on tragic development that the U.S.A. has lost sight of its icons of individual freedom and secular constitutional government, instead favoring convenience, theater, and "virtual" rather than virtuous existence. We had the international cred to do what needed to be done immediately after 9/11/01, when GWB said, "You're either with us or against us." At that singular epoch, we were in a great position to change the world, especially the ME for the better, but squandered the opportunity in political bickering and over-tolerance for traitors. We can still get a lot of good done, but the costs will be higher because of the delay and diversion that has occupied most of the last 12 years.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Yoda · 7 years ago
      Mr. Uaxe,
      I respectfully suggest that you check your history of post WWII Japan. The US fearing a rise in communism the US allowed the most of the key members of the Zaibatsu to re-establish themselves as the power behind the throne. As to the Emperor he remained on the throne. Attempts to de-deify him failed. To many Japanese he was and is the living magnification of Amaterasu. As to the Middle East, democracy functions properly only with an informed and educated populace. In the Middle East illiteracy is rampant and the primary source of information is the local Mullah. Who is the same one spurring them to Jihad against the crusaders and the Jews. Devotees of Islam understand power and the will to exercise it. Past that they are instructed to pretend to befriend the infidel until the time is right to strike.
      Finally, we went into the Afghanistan to remove Al Qaeda and kill/capture its tier 1 asset. Al-Qaeda has moved on, our geopolitical interest in Afghanistan is gone. Get our people out and allow the Afghanis to return the 7th century. Regardless of where they are now we need to hunt down and kill any member of Al Qaeda we can find; such as Somalia. Yemen and North Africa. If by chance Al Qaeda rears its filth little head again in Afghanistan again then return, only long enough to chase them back under the rock they slithered out from. Lastly, nation building as it currently practiced is a BS concept. One rebuild nations, after they have been brought to heel, as you referenced in post war Japan. Other attempts at nation building are a fool's folly and a sure place to lose men, machines and money.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Carol · 7 years ago
    Interesting article. More interesting is how their perspective "Pasab has the most challenging medevac missions in Regional Command-South due to the high frequency of missions," differs so strongly from the ground forces there, who you would think are the very ones "running those missions" yet who say it's been quiet. If both are the case, surely the flight area of operations isn't so narrow as the authors imply? Or the author wrote it some time ago? Or someone is providing misinformation? I would hope one does more research than what Google pulls up...especially knowing the following of those who are there. Otherwise, glad to see that they have increased Medevacs, it was needed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan H. · 7 years ago
    Here's an idea: put a biggish lump of iron of the same chemical nature as meteoritic iron into orbit, then de-orbit it such that it impacts on that mosque. When this happens, say nothing. Say absolutely nothing officially and deny all knowledge of anything American having been anywhere near that mosque.

    Sooner or later someone's going to start suggesting that this might have been God's judgement on that mosque; when this occurs, rubbish the notion using the most unbelievable, incompetent blimp of an officer you can find. Then shut up again. Rumours will spread thereafter...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom Kinton · 7 years ago
    Michael-saw your comment re. Google Alerts feature. Try www.silobreaker.com
    It's a nice aggregator and does link analysis as well.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul Garner · 7 years ago
    Gentlemen and Ladies;

    A little history. Dustoff 90 is the only Dustoff that did not return from Vietnam.They went MIA (later changed to KIA)on 12 Feb 1968. The co-pilot was my cousin, CWO Alan Gunn, USA. Remember them.

    Paul Garner
    aka The Old Sarge

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