Michael's Dispatches

MEDEVAC Momentum: Senate Armed Services Committee to Raise the Issue


01 March 2012

The MEDEVAC issue continues with increasing seriousness.  Numerous Generals, the Secretary of the Army, and the Secretary of Defense (through General Dempsey, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs) have all weighed into the fight.  Seventeen members of Congress have joined, and more expressed interest in the past 48 hours in correspondence to me.  I’ve just spent several hours personally answering many correspondences from offices of Members of Congress.

Two Senators, McCain and Manchin (both members of SASC) are stepping into the ring.  Major media from CBS to FOX to AP and many others have done major pieces and more attention is on the way.

Rick Clay emails:

“I have some good news. I spoke to Senator Manchin and Senator McCain today. They are going to bring our issue up in an Armed Services Committee hearing March 5th during the Army Posturing Hearing and request a follow-up during the Afghanistan Hearing on March 25th. They are going to send me the link so we can watch the hearing.”


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Larry · 10 years ago
    It appears that all your hard work is finally paying off Michael. If it wasn't for your efforts, this would still be a moot issue, thank you brother!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Violette · 10 years ago
    ....for you, for the troops,for the good people out there,is it some hope ???
  • This commment is unpublished.
    barney brenner · 10 years ago
    When the red ‘crosshairs’ are finally removed, it seems inevitable that there will be squawking by the enemy and the useful idiots. It would be a good opportunity to push back.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    r · 10 years ago
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 10 years ago
    Finally!!! Great work Michael and all who participated!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Staci · 10 years ago
    Finally. With Senator McCain in the fight now, we will definately see some results.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ed · 10 years ago
    I wonder what crow tastes like?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Prentice · 10 years ago
    The red cross is just the tip of the iceberg. The red cross prevents the birds from being armed, in accordance with GC. Removing the red cross allows the birds to be armed. That would be a step in the right direction, but I don't think it would be enough.

    I can see the push-back on the issue of arming the medevac birds being two-fold:
    1. Adding the guns, especially adding a pair of miniguns like the Pavehawks mount, adds weight AND adds crew. This restricts the bird's lift capacity, especially in hot thin air.
    2. The cabin of the UH-60, when configured for medevac, is restricted by the litter carousel unit in the center. Adding guns may mean removing the litter carousel, thus diminishing the bird's ability to load multiple casualties. With the carousel, 6 litter patients can be accomodated; without the carousel, this may be limited to only 2- .
    • This commment is unpublished.
      David Prentice · 10 years ago
      All of this can easily be answered. In the first place, it will probably not be necessary to arm all medevac birds, and it could be left up to an individual commander's discretion to arm or not arm, to display the red cross or not display the red cross, and to have the litter carousel mounted on some designated birds but not on others.

      Personally, I would like to see the flexibility to allow medevac birds with the red cross in non-combat roles. The red cross stands out during disaster relief missions, for example. But allowing birds within a medevac detachment to be armed puts armed escort birds directly under the command of the medevac commander and gives the flexibility for those birds to also be used for medevac missions.

      The litter carousel simply needs to be discarded. It is an unnecessarily complicated hinderance to patient care, and it is unreasonable to expect a single medic to provide any level of enroute care to six patients who are confined to the carousel in-flight.

      My own medevac experience was with Hueys. They could be configured to take either or 6 litters, and the preferred configuration for us was litters stacked horizontally across the cabin instead of 6 in 2 rows of stacked longitudinally on either side of the cabin. This allowed for, if necessary, additional ambulatory patients to be loaded in the rear hellholes alongside the transmission and for the litter patients to be stacked by priority so that the medic was really only committed to enroute care for the 1-2 of highest priority. Loading 6 restricted the medic to doing little more than checking vitals enroute, and with no access to the patients to perform any care.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 10 years ago
    Good God!

    Why can't the military sort this out on their own without getting those losers in Congress involved?

    Once they get involved, God only knows what extravagant asinine results will follow and the problem will never be truly solved!

    With the lowest approval rating ever, do really think those ass-clowns are ever going resolve something like this issue!

    Pentagon, get your heads out of your collective career holes and fix this damnit before Congress really screws it up!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cav Dad · 10 years ago
    I am a resident of Michigan and therefore a constituent of SASC Chairman Sen. Carl Levin. Over the past several weeks I have emailed his office twice through his website and asked him about the Dustoff Controversy. I did not present my position or make any accusations. I only asked him what his position was. I would think that, given several weeks have gone by, that someone from his staff could have made some kind of reply to either of the two emails that I sent, but so far nobody has bothered.
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    BravoBilly · 10 years ago
    I have an idea. Change the Red Cross to Red Star and Crescent Moon. It will not be fired upon. President Obama will support that.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Barnett · 10 years ago
    Michael, thanks for bringing this to the attention of so many people. Perhaps those who say "what can I really do" or "how could my one vote really matter" will see what has happened here.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    DumbGrunt · 10 years ago
    I have heard the debate about the medevac birds, and they keep going around and around about red crosses (which I agree, if we fight against a non-geneva abiding enemy, we should take off, anyway...) and whether to arm the birds (which I don't care about- I suspect it has WAY more to do with medic-types not wanting to have to be proficient at medicine AND weaponry- besides, I don't want a "medic type" laying down suppressive fire within my LZ perimeter, anyway)...

    What I don't get is this: Medals of Honor were won in Vietnam, under similar conditions, when medevac pilots essentially said, "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!", and saved folks in extremely "hot" LZs. It seems to me like the crux of this issue isn't machine guns or red crosses, but that we have a new breed of medevac pilot that is too pu$$ified to land in a hot LZ without gunship support. That, or the "only land with gunships on station" rule is crippling medevac pilots' initiative... Red cross or not, a medevac pilot should still be able to put down and do his/her job, just like in RVN. Pure and simple.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Sid · 10 years ago

      With all due respect, go to hell. I have served in Panama, Desert Storm, support of the Bosnia mission, and my most recent deployment was to Iraq in 09-10 to train the Iraqi Police. I received a direct commission in 08 and went back to train with the young LTs just rolling out of West Point, ROTC, and OCS. The young men and women who lead our troops today signed up, raised their right hands, and swore their oaths during a time of war. Their country was fighting in two countries the day they said "send me".

      The kids who went on to be pilots are the best and brighest we have ever put in the pilot seat. They would gladly and without reservation fly into harm's way to save a brother or sister service member. They cannot because the current commanders will not let them. Do it once and you are grounded. The commanders are risk averse because the elected officials want only bad guys killed and school children smiling. They have no idea how or men and women risk life and limb trying to seperate the pregnant women from the bomb vest wearers.

      Your assertion that our current pilots are not as brave as former generations is as wrong as it is vulgar. You should be ashamed of your comments.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Scobro · 10 years ago
        Having worked several tours with Dustoff I've learned that the commanders who are authorized to make decisions to launch the aircraft (meaning those commanders at the Aviation battalions and brigade, as well as the tactical TF division and theater commands) are risk adverse and more afraid of losing an aircraft and crew than they are of an American dying on the field of battle. I've heard more than once that one life is not worth the possibility of losing a platform and four lives. The Dustoff guys on the other hand realish the opportunity to pick up a patient, any patient, to include known enemy, under the worst conditions. Ask the Marines in Falluja about the DUSTOFF guys that landed in the city to pick up or conducted hoist missions as sniper bait to pick up their wounded. Ask the 10th Mountain about the Dustoff guys who hover at 12,000 feet to pick up a guy off a mountain in a snowstorm after a firefight with enemey still in the area (and yes Mr. Yon, an additional 500lbs DOES make a difference to them at those altitudes).
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    Scobro · 10 years ago
    I have yet to meet a Dustoff crew who wouldn't fly through hell while wearing gasoline pants to pick up a critical patient. What keeps them on the ground in missions like Chezney Clark is that they were probably threatened with terminal grounding and removal of their wings if they lifted off. Some tactical fancypants Sunday QB who rarely flys and had never pulled a Dustoff mission made a decision to "reduce risk" in a hot zone by insisting on a gunship that simply wasn't available, despite the fact that there was not an active firefight or troops in contact at the time. The issue isn't the cross, isn't the lack of machine guns, and really isn't the gunships. It's the lack of trust by senior leaders that the crew will make a sound decision. The problem is the decentralization of the decision making process and a mandate to micromanage everything in their AO. Hold the BN and BDE COs responsible for this failure, not Dustoff.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    DumbGrunt · 10 years ago
    @Sid: Fine, mis-targeted and mis-diagnosed by me.

    I'll grant you, then, all medevac pilots are Gods. Fine.

    You just point the coward finger at the Aviation Company Commander who is risk averse? Fine, as well.

    It's just a shame that that Aviation Company Commander, who is now a coward, was a hero when he was still a pilot. ...And I'm not debating it- pinning on those railroad tracks can cripple the recipient with criminal risk aversion, especially if the Aviation Battalion/Squadron Commander is a ticket puncher (and those proliferate)... I just think that it is funny that those who you point at as Company Commander were once the infallible pilot at one time. Just saying.

    My point still stands. This is not a debate about red crosses or machine guns. This is a debate about cowardice on some level. Period.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Scobro · 10 years ago
      Dumbgrunt, the issue with the battalion commander and brigade commander making critical decisions in the MEDEVAC process is that none of them have ever performed duties or been instructed in the nature of the medical chain to the same degree of MEDEVAC pilots (Medical Service Corps branch). Aviation branch focuses on their direct contribution to the fight itself (Air Assault, gunship support, development of battle by shaping operations, recon, etc). Support activities not directly related to these functions are an afterthought, or a one hour block of instruction in their leadership courses. MEDEVAC (MSC) officers make a career out of understanding the both the medical piece and how it fits into the aviation role. They train, apprentice, and are mentored on the process for years and have a better understanding of THIER operational environment (both aviation and medical). Just as I wouldn’t want a MEDEVAC pilot planning an Air Assault or an attack mission, nor would I want the straight lift or gunship pilot planning MEDEVAC support and launch decisions when people are dying.

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