Michael's Dispatches

Senator Levin on MEDEVAC


07 March 2012

Senator Carl Levin has been sending a form letter to his constituents.  Key parts of the letter seem to be have been written by the Army.  At minimum, Senator Levin’s responses are a rewrite of Army releases.   His statement perpetuates numerous myths and outright falsehoods.  Carl Levin is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Oversight is his duty.  If Senator Levin independently researched the Army statements, he would know that they contain falsehoods.

The letter [along with my comments in brackets]:

Dear [Deleted]:
Thank you for contacting me about the U.S. Army’s medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) policy.  I appreciate hearing your views on this matter.
Following the September 18, 2011, death of Army Specialist Chazray Clark in Afghanistan, concerns were raised about the Army’s MEDEVAC helicopter policy.  The specific circumstances of Specialist Clark’s death are the subject of an ongoing investigation.  For force protection reasons, all helicopters in Afghanistan fly in pairs, and the responsible in-theater commander makes the decision to use an armed escort for the MEDEVAC helicopter based on an appropriate tactical and risk assessment of each situation.

The Red Cross markings common to MEDEVAC vehicles of all types, ground or air ambulances, are consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions.  [False: there is zero requirement to wear the Red Cross.  The Air Force, Marines, British and Dutch do not use the Red Cross in Afghanistan.  Nor do Army Special Operations Forces.  Only Army Dustoff MEDEVAC are ordered to wear the Red Cross, and the manner in which they fly in Afghanistan actually violates the Geneva Conventions.  The violations occur in numerous ways.  For instance, aircraft marked with the Red Cross are not permitted to fly over the enemy.  Marked MEDEVAC also must fly over pre-agreed routes at pre-agreed times, and must land for inspection when summoned by the enemy.  We violate or do not adhere to these and other GC provisions in Afghanistan.  Most bizarre in this MEDEVAC debacle is that with his letter, Senator Levin is suborning violating Geneva Conventions, and may be encouraging the Pentagon to break the law.  Of course the normal reply to this is, “The Taliban are not signatory to the GC.”  And in rebuttal, “Agreed.  The Taliban are not signatory.  And so why did Senator Levin bring up requirements of the GC, implying that the Air Force, British, and Dutch are in violation?   If GC does not apply, why bring GC into the discussion, and why alert the enemy to unarmed helicopters by wearing the Red Cross?  If GC does apply, as Senator Levin suggests, we are in clear violation and Levin is encouraging violation.”]  Even if the enemy targets all aircraft regardless of marking, as is the case in Afghanistan, the Red Cross ensures these helicopters will not be used for any other purpose than protecting their availability for their lifesaving mission. [Air Force Pedro are used in MEDEVAC/CASEVAC/CSAR rolls in Afghanistan.  They do not wear Red Crosses and they are used for nothing but rescue.  Levin’s sentence implies that Army generals admit that they lack the command horsepower to dedicate birds to MEDEVAC missions unless the generals use the excuse of the Red Cross.] MEDEVAC is distinguished from casualty evacuation, in which any available vehicle or aircraft is used to carry the wounded, as well as the well-known combat search and rescue operations of the Air Force and Navy.  [This sentence is meaningless, and untrue; Air Force Pedro are dedicated assets with more medics aboard who on average are more highly trained than Dustoff flight medics.]

Arming MEDEVAC helicopters would require significant changes to the interior configuration of these helicopters and would reduce the space otherwise available to carry and treat wounded troops.  [This is untrue on one level, and irrelevant on another; a primary argument is that Dustoff MEDEVAC should not wear Red Crosses to alert the enemy they are unarmed.  Taking off the Red Crosses adds no weight, and might even save a few ounces in paint.  The secondary argument is about arming the helicopters.  Why not just remove the Red Cross so as not to alert the Taliban that you are unarmed?]  Improvised explosive devices detonated against a military vehicle are the most common casualty producing attack in Afghanistan.  These attacks typically injure more than one vehicle passenger, requiring evacuation of several victims.  Arming MEDEVAC helicopters reduces the number of wounded carried and therefore increases the number of helicopters required and trips into and out of the area of an attack.  [This is a statistical falsehood and also sidesteps the argument that two armed Air Force Pedros can carry more patients than one unarmed Dustoff with an Apache escort.  This answer is a herring and assumes an uneducated reader.]

According to the Army [Does Levin trust the Army to say otherwise?], there is consensus within the Department of Defense and among commanders in Afghanistan that the policies and employment practices for Army MEDEVAC are appropriate.  [False: most pilots I speak with say the system is replete with flaws far beyond those mentioned here.]  It is important to note that the 92 percent survival rate for the wounded in Afghanistan is the highest in history, an accomplishment built on sound policy and the brave work of the Army’s medical crews. [The military is unable to substantiate this 92% claim.  I have looked into this and found it demonstrably specious.  The Pentagon should publish the study that supports the 92% figure.  The Pentagon should be called before the Senate to defend its position.]  As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will keep your thoughts in mind as the Committee performs its oversight role of military operations in Afghanistan.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Carl Levin

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rusty Shackleford · 10 years ago
    This should surprise no one. Even if these guys (99% of the politicians anyway) did write their own responses, chances are they'd be wrong anyway. Unless something effects them directly (or threatens their reelection bid), they just regurgitate whatever sounds best to get it off their back.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David1111 · 10 years ago
    So is someone afraid of making a decision on fixing this, or what? This issue has been in the spotlight for sometime now and I'm trying to figure out what else besides "Geneva Conventions" is blocking a resolution.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    scarface · 10 years ago
    Is anyone surprised by the lack of oversight, or depth of character, or even any character at all of our politicians? Yet our brave warriors continue to risk their lives daily to protect ou way of life!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Army PA · 10 years ago
    I'm from MI, and thoroughly plan on not re-electing someone who lacks the sense to see through the poorly placed smoke screen.

    Additionally, I find it abhorable and angering that the Army and DOD are satisfied with the (unsubstantiated) 92% survival rate. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 8%?! I tell my troops all the time, the standard isn't what everyone else does. We don't just 'aim to be better than the other guys'. The standard is 100%, or better! This garbage just angers me.

    I'm not on MEDEVAC missions, but know the AMEDD well enough to know the reason they are sticking to their guns on this is satisfaction with their mediocrity, as well as the fact they don't want to give up the MEDEVAC aircraft. There is an entire School of Aviation Medicine, and if we lost dedicated MEDEVAC aircraft, we'd lose money.

    As noted over and over by MY, we don't wear red crosses on our arms anymore. Why in the world do we on aircraft? GC is a copout, a justification to keep the status quo, and the proverbial "way we've always done it" and they don't have the fortitude to change it.

    Again, the standard isn't better than everyone else. The standard is 100%. These guys need to give this garbage up, and realize they're here to improve the systems, not stick with the broke-a$$ status quo.

    Keep up the strong work MY. Thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    a&n · 10 years ago
    Yeah...and why is our Government selling weapons to the drug cartels and nobody knows who gave the order?...Where does the buck stop with all of this stuff? Our Government no longer works for us. Get a clue people. And in the meantime our men die.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Herrmann Glockler · 10 years ago
    Carl Levin is a bumbling fool who has long ago outlived his usefulness, but the liberal establishment in the N.E of the country just votes him back in, because the useless public school system destroyed any semblance in intelligence in this corner of the nationnq
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 10 years ago
    See my last post on this subject :-*

    Congress will never fix a problem without screwing it up more than it is already!

    Pentagon, once again I say, get your heads out your collective A-Hole and fix this debacle NOW!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    flightmedic · 10 years ago
    Mr Yon. I do appreciate your work on this issue and as an Afghanistan Army flight medic vet you too also need to check your facts. [This sentence is meaningless, and untrue; Air Force Pedro are dedicated assets with more medics aboard who on average are more highly trained than Dustoff flight medics.]
    This is a false statement and you need to do some more research. The fact is Army DUSTOFF medics are made of National Guard company's and their medical training and experience are far more superior than any Pedro unit. What the Perdro's excel in is CSAR and technical rescue they haven't as of yet proven to primary patient providers. As to the high precent of casualty survivability that is direct result to ARMY flight medics. During my deployment and other known deployments that number is closer to 97% bases on CETCOM study's. Please keep up the good work getting red crosses removed and please keep up on your research to be correct
    • This commment is unpublished.
      in_awe · 10 years ago
      Army stats show that wounded troops evacuated by National Guard MEDEVAC units have a 60% greater likelihood of survival than a wounded soldier rescued by a regular Army MEDEVAC. For over a decade the doctors within AMEDD have been publishing articles demanding upgraded training for combat and flight medics...up to the level of USAF pararesuemen, i.e. paramedic qualified. Finally, 1 years after the date of the first article I found with that demand, AMEDD has revised its course curriculum and the MOS requirements!

      The Colonel in charge of MEDEVAC proponency also has stated that medic skills are below the standards needed on the battlefield. Finally, one of AMEDD's most MEDEVAC savvy officers - an MD - wrote a scathing after action report following his 6 months in Afghanistan asking why after 40 similarly damning ARs over a decade nothing had still not been done to improve medic skills. The attack is against AMEDD leadership - not the individual medics who do the best they can with the skills they were taught. Some medics advance their skills ion their own time and at their own expense because their command will not directly support it.

      The same report (in 2011) said that from a medical point of view the preferred MEDEVAC crews are MERT (UK), Pedro then regular Army. [Had he mentioned NG MEDEVAC, I am sure it would have been 2nd or rd in that list.]
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tommy Barrios · 10 years ago
      As a Air Force vet, flightmedic is telling the truth and I have said it also.

      Comparing the Pedro missions to the Dustoff missions is comparing Apples to Oranges.

      It is two "totally different missions" and and cannot be used to justify losing 700lbs of weight carrying ability.

      You folks marking negatives don't really know a damn thing about the Air Force CSAR program which is to rescue downed pilots DEEP BEHIND enemy lines!!!

      It is not the same as picking up battlefield front line casualties, YO!

      If anything I would use the Pedros, when possible, as a backup to the Dustoff missions since they are armed to teeth and use them to pickup any stragglers the Dustoff birds couldn't carry!

      I do feel that there needs to be more concern in the Army ranks on how this appears to the ignorant American public and by inference Congress, as the end result maybe not be what the troops wanted or expected!
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Scobro · 9 years ago
        [quote name="webzight"]If anything I would use the Pedros, when possible, as a backup to the Dustoff missions since they are armed to teeth and use them to pickup any stragglers the Dustoff birds couldn't carry![/quote]

        Actually, they did that from 2006-2008 in RC-South. There was a time when the Pedros (called Habu then) refused to allow their PJs to fly on any mission that wasn't CSAR. The USAF loaded up medical techs on their aircraft and flew chase for the Dustoff birds. If there was more than two patients, the Pedro aircraft would drop overhead coverage and land to pick up additional patients. They got away from that because the PJs were allowed to fly the mission and they wanted first dibs on the patients, so they ended the USAF/Army team, allowing the USAF to take missions on their own. They seemed to work well together.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Epador · 10 years ago
      You fail to note that there are multiple PEDRO units that are more functional and trained, activated USAF Reserve, who have been doing the hard work AMEDD and even USAF CCAT teams wouldn't do for ten years.

      Give me a USAF Reserve PJ over your best DUSTOFF any day.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Heywood Jablomi · 10 years ago
      [quote name="flightmedic"]The fact is Army DUSTOFF medics are made of National Guard company's and their medical training and experience are far more superior than any Pedro unit. [/quote]

      Thanks for volunteering, and thanks for serving.

      Now go sit down and shut up. You are stupid. You know only your small part of your world, and you have no insight into the skill sets and expertise of AF PJ's. If you did, you would run to your commanders and demand better training for yourself and for your AD flight medic compatriots.

      Your MEDEVAC birds are pathetically configured. There is very little that you can actually do en route, and you know it. You are limited by your aircraft configuration and by your training. If you are so hot, why are PA's, nurses, and doctors put on MEDEVACs all of the time? Because you carry a bag full of bandaids, that is why.

      It makes me want to knock my head against the wall when I read something like this posted by a dumbshit kid who has no clue.

      You have a lot of learning to do. You should go get to it. Go wander over to the PJ launch pad, and pay them a visit. Take some coffee with you. They are good dudes. They will be happy to talk to you and to show you their gear and to explain their capabilities.

      By the time that you are done, you will want to reenlist to be a PJ.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon author · 10 years ago

      Thank you for the reply. My statement is center mass on target. However, some parts of your statement are incorrect, while other parts need to be tightened up and substantiated. I've studied this topic thoroughly and am on target.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Tommy Barrios · 10 years ago
        Micheal you're a great reporter and a great patriotic American, but sometimes...

        Your "research" sounds like you went looking for the answers that would bolster your argument rather than the REAL facts about the differences between the PEDRO missions and the DUSTOFF missions.

        Just because the PEDROs are picking up wounded and/or downed aircrews, does NOT mean they are they are same type of missions nor even the same type of aircraft and you know it;-)

        I should think you would "listen" to 'flightmedic' and the other flight medics who have commented here that you are slightly wrong headed in your analysis of the MEDVAC debacle and the results YOU expect from the upper lever brass.

        While your concern and passion is well placed and commendable, your "demands" to fix the problem as YOU see it are off point!

        Bless you and keep up the great work you are doing otherwise;-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark Everett · 10 years ago
    People of Michigan - get someone in that office that will support our troops instead of giving them lip service!!!!! THEY DESERVE BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leyla Najma · 10 years ago
    I think this Senator's response is just mumbo jumbo and nothing more. I also think that everybody like flightmedic has an opinion based on how they see and experience issues. The difference is Michael is trying to do something about it. Maybe flightmedic you can help Michael out instead of insisting he get his facts straight. And to you Michael kudos for having the courage to do what you do!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    GreenEyedJinn · 10 years ago
    My Representative is Randy Forbes. I just wrote him a letter asking for his assistance in resolving this issue to help our troops have faster MEDEVAC times.
    Everyone reading this blog should write theirs.
    I'll let you know what response I get from Rep. Forbes. I'm hoping the House might be more proactive than the Senate.
    Keep up the great work!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon author · 10 years ago

      The bulk of the progress on this topic has been made by folks doing what you just did. Writing to elected officials is crucial.

      Thank you.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Byars · 10 years ago
    I just wrote to Senator Levin. This is so infuriating. I realize fully that this was a waste of time, but sometimes things just need to be said.

    The fact that these people in positions of responsibility don't see a connection between guys putting their lives on the line and the need for these people in positions of responsibility to pay attention to their responsibilities makes me angry beyond words.


    - Bill
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 10 years ago
    Typical Politician! I wonder how the residents of Michigan would feel about Democrat Levin's position on this matter? I read his bio and that was enough for me. Maybe the good people of Michigan will vote him out next election. Politicians seem to always take a strange point of view on matters that impact the average American. Let take care of the people that have given you the freedom to speak. The Soldiers!!Maybe Levin's staff is monitering this website. If not they should be.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sara · 10 years ago
    Made sure Mr. Levin received your comments and feedback on his letter he is sending to constituents. Seems he is doing quite a disservice to his state not to mention our soldiers. Where is common sense?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Grenadier · 10 years ago
    I raised the issue of subdued MEDEVAC markings in a previous post. Why not a medium grey cross on a lighter grey back ground? Whatever. A few cans of paint & problem solved. Let's see what the counter-arguments are. Handle the markings first - deal with the guns issue later.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jRoger · 10 years ago
    Get a clue, folks. We need to give the entire congressional membership a pink slip. We've survived the past years without an effective congress... perhaps a change to congress convening for 6 months every alternate year would serve us all better!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon author · 10 years ago
    Thank you for the response.

    You raise a valid question. There is a good answer. Firstly, the reason for wearing the cross is specifically to alert the enemy that the helicopter is an unarmed noncombatant. (The truth is that the MEDEVACs are armed because the crew have personal weapons, but that's a different matter.) Wearing a subdued Red Cross is not the answer.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jon Gorman · 10 years ago
    Carl Levin is just plain stupid. This is the same guy who brought a group of illegals onto the Senate floor in an effort to make a point about immigration. Told them they too could one day grow up to be President someday. You would think that he would know you had to be born here, and at least be a citizen, to be eligible. He is a man with little or no common sense and lacks any knowledge about the government he is part of. Doubt he could write any kind of letter true or false. These people stay around way beyond their expiration date.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brurce Templeton · 10 years ago
    Michael do you have a form letter that my firends, family, and I can send to our senators?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      pedro23c · 9 years ago
      I'm off on a adventure...
      "This here is dedicated to all of the people like me"
      I'm on my way to Afghanistan
      "Wherever you are...Now"

      Pave Hawks seen flying around, you never see them too long on the ground
      You want to be one of them...
      You might hear the Pave Hawks flying around, you never see them too long on the ground
      You want to be one of them..

      Woah Now, HEY!, Pedro, Pedro
      Tell me where you're going, Tell us where you're headed
      I'm off on a adventure, Pedro
      Tell me some of your stories, Tell us of your travels

      HEY!, Pedro, Pedro
      Tell me where you're going, Tell us where you're headed
      I'm on my way to Kandahar, Pedro
      Can we tag along, Can we take the journey

      Knocked down round for round
      You're seeing that you're shot at on the ground
      When will the nightmare end, When will the fantasy begin
      You might be knocked down round for round
      You're seeing that you're shot at in the air
      When will the nightmare end, When will the fantasy begin

      Woah Now, HEY!, Pedro, Pedro
      Tell me where you're going, Tell us where you're headed
      I'm off on a adventure, Pedro
      Tell us some of your stories, Tell us of your travels
      HEY!, Pedro, Pedro
      Tell me where you're going, Tell us where you're headed
      I'm on my way to Role , Pedro
      Can we tag along, Can we take the journey
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Seagull Tango · 9 years ago
    Based on my experiences in Washington and the Pentagon, which are very, very extensive, I will add something here of interest.

    The reason that Sen. Levin's letter sounds like it is parroting the US Army's line is that it was almost undoubtedly written by the Army officer assigned to support the good senator in his leading role as on the Armed Services Committee.

    In other words, the way things work, you write the senator, but the Army drafts the reply anyway.

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